December is a beginning and an ending: the beginning of the new liturgical year and the ending of the calendar year. In some ways this month is the story of our lives -- we move from dramatic events of birth to death through the slow process of just living and growing -- and in choice golden moments to simply reflect about the journey. If we think back on the progress made in our year of Eco-Spirituality it may be evident that some hidden growth and maturation has occurred. Perhaps at no other time than here and now at Paris, France will so much be decided to change the course of our environmental policy in an effort to influence climate change.
What can we write or say for on your name to play self-love a moment's stay. Your beauty can display your soon to fade glory's day: we pause with feet of clay.
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Frost formations on chilly Kentucky morning. (*photo credit)
December 1, 2015Waiting with Patience
God's love for us was revealed when God sent into the world his only Son so that we could have life through him. (I John 4:9)
In December we look over where we have come from and without losing our pace we look ahead to where we are going. Yes it is a balancing act and worth a reflection in itself. Like Mary on the road to Bethlehem, we are bringing forth the hidden Christ to a world looking for love. Thus we relive Christmas both in childlike terms to recapture the spirit of simplicity, and in more adult terms to find how we can be change agents in troubled times.
As successful Earthhealers we are to be other christs and form a union of divine and human characteristics. Let's visit and meet with those who are in need of our caregiving. Sensitivity is our immediate Advent goal; we pray for the spirit of compassion so that all healers can be truly efficacious. We are not perfect at this and so must tame our impulse to be active with the patience it takes to survey the entire situation. We cannot afford to allow the complacent to dictate inaction as a greater norm, for all must do their individual parts.
The spirit of the season includes the use of all our senses in preparing for celebration. Nature has a way of adding to the rhythms of the time -- in both faint and dramatic ways. We have to recognize each and bring joy to others, for sharing what we have is the key to this season. Some creativity is demanded during the year, but never to such a degree as in December, since many words have been spoken and every conceivable type of material gift given. However, many hunger not for novelty but for simple gifts of love.
Lastly, the humble hug becomes the experience that all need and few ask for except in extreme circumstances. Today in this troubled world and in this starting period of winter, the hug means so much to those who are out in the cold; for some it is a warm place to spend the night. Our Earth needs to be hugged but our arm's span is far too short, unless we unite with all other peoples. Then we can reach around the planet. The paradox is that one might expect that with time the culmination of an Eco-Spirituality is more on a rational plane and less on an emotional or experiential one. Ironically, rationalists now discover that being closer to Earth makes the experiential all the more vivid, raises new questions and demands new inquiry.
December concludes a yearly pilgrimage and includes the pause and rest before launching on the next leg of the journey that will end in life everlasting. Review, testing ourselves and resolution all combine into one during this blessed season. We are slow to see the complete picture, weak at perfectly testing ourselves and lacking in total resolve. Even amid this we are empowered by the Lord to confront the powers of evil and ultimately win.
Prayer: Lord, give us a sense of patience as we, like believers of old, await the Coming of the Lord. Help us realize that only so much can be done in our brief sojourn.
"Lord, inspire the attendees at the Paris Climate Change Conference."
December 2, 2015 Seeing God on Our Evolving Journey
If you read my words, you will have some idea of the depths that I see in the mystery of Christ. This mystery that has now been revealed through the Spirit to his holy apostles and prophets was unknown to any men in past generations. (Ephesians 3:4-5)
My ordination prayer card from Abbey Press says, "Faith is seeing the brilliant countenance of Christ looking up at us from every creature." The author is unmentioned, but the quotation has always offered me a challenge. Do I see this countenance on my journey of faith? Must I look ahead to the end and focus only on spiritual growth? Or do I look about on the Journey and discover God in the social world around us? Is perceiving the presence of God in all creation a goal, a gift, a hope and an invitation?
We all grow in our awareness and this is a lifetime endeavor. Just as Christ grew in age and wisdom (Luke's Gospel), and just as the Church grew in understanding of herself and her mission (Acts of the Apostles), so believes grow in our journey of faith through maturation and growth in consciousness. Amazingly, social awareness is the first of the components perceived by those within a formal community of believers; a maturing sense of our goals with others as we confront our personal mortality and a destiny ahead; this becomes a commons in itself.
We strive to see God when becoming aware of our local needs; we see the urgency to respond to needs in a finite span of time enlightened through faith. Just as we become aware of that end towards which we are converging, we are all the more aware that others travel much the same road and so we assist them when and where possible. We see each of them as another christ and in doing this we feel God's presence. Awareness of our end and that we socially go there together is a double awareness, a growth of consciousness of end (telos) through our social awareness. Overconcern with self lacks a social dimension; overconcern of other without seeing ourselves as needing self-control is equally lacking. The two must be balanced and work in tandem.
We are aware of ourselves and our location at this time, an ecological awareness of being HERE. We are aware of the need to act and save our troubled Earth, a teleological awareness to do this NOW. I simply cannot do this alone but need the collaboration of hopefully all others of good will, a social awareness of WE. But still more is in store. Believers are becoming aware of our social addictions that call to a Higher Power for help. We need God, the "Mystery beyond" now becoming present as a Mystery within. God has not traveled; I have journeyed. God is here but my imperfections create distances. This is an emerging awareness that subsumes all others, a pervasive and enlivening atmosphere of Presence, a re-presentation. The HERE is truly ecological and growing in godliness as we mature. We are present to God because God is always present to us; this takes time to perceive; so does the need to be social and see God in others as well.
Prayer: Lord, make us aware of your Divine Presence to us and strengthen our spiritual eyesight.
"Lord, inspire the attendees at the Paris Climate Change Conference."
December 3, 2015Finding God in All Things over Time
It means that pagans now share the same inheritance, that they are parts of the same body, and that the same promise has been made to them, in Christ Jesus, through the gospel. (Ephesians 3:6)
In a passive way, some people may be tempted to await the coming of the Lord in blissful lethargy; they ask "Why work if God is soon coming?" St. Paul confronts this false notion in his Letters to the Thessalonians. However, we must not sit idly by and expect things will be done for us, as though we are privileged nobles. Through our own creative activity, we find God's Presence in other creatures: plants and animals and heavenly bodies all around us. Through our human struggles and weaknesses we discover Divine love and mercy manifested through covenants and rainbows, prophets and, in the fullness of time, a Messiah. These activities involve a reverential attitude towards all creation -- an atmosphere needed for spiritual growth; without this reverence we suffocate; through humble work our reverence grows.
We focus on the person of Christ in whom all creatures have their being (Colossians 1:16), for here is the fullness of one whom we can see and strive to follow. In seeking God in all things we search in the hidden recesses of Earth and find a treasure of the Kingdom -- the priceless pearl. We open our eyes, follow the Spirit's prompting, and search about; we find God again and again; each finding is connected in some mysterious way to another and another, so that the total process becomes part of the divine flavor experienced in discovery. Actually, it is more like learning to cook than like treasure-seeking: each edible ingredient becomes not the only jewel but a priceless spice when blended. We connect place A with place B, person A with person B. As biological catalysts we become effective when we fit into certain vital notches and, through this fitting, we see a whole emerging. We connect points and through proper timing, we effect change.
Timing is of the essence, lest the catalytic joining of essential parts does not occur (Read about biological catalysts). Now as the acceptable time to catalyze means that we have a place in Salvation History. Jesus freely accepted his mission of healing and teaching, suffering and dying; from the Calvary event springs a ray of liberation that reaches out and embraces us all where we are. Earth becomes holy in the blood of Christ -- and thus Holy Land is Holy Planet. Place becomes consecrated when we enter in with Christ and accept our role as suffering servant. In a period of gratitude we realize that God has privileged us to be HERE and NOW at this place and during these troubled times.
However, while aging we become more conscious of limited time and the need to rest. Physical energy gradually wanes, but our growth in spiritual consciousness can grow over time. Our journey has an urgent temporal dimension; we find new horizons that involve place and time. The future has a twofold reality: we accept inevitable aging and bodily diminishment; and we discover our future through spiritual growth. And God is over it all.
Prayer: Lord, you give us both the gift of time and place.
"Lord, inspire the attendees at the Paris Climate Change Conference."
December 4, 2015 Discovering Eco-Spirituality Inherently Social
God's healing power goes out to all the world through us as inspired and believing agents of change. We gradually become aware of our emerging place and our limited time; we learn to forgive and to share in Salvation History. We grow in awareness of the Divine Presence as we become aware of our end that lies ahead and our community with others who help us in our journey and to whom we break away from our selfishness and become more social. And this interrelationship grows as the consciousness of God's Presence emerges. HERE centers and focuses our direction; NOW extends it out in a ray to a distant end point (beyond the horizon) when we join with the Lord. WE becomes the field in which we operate and move in this world in "The Temple of the Holy Spirit." Proper direction is the vector pointed to the end and ordered to our social milieu. Improper direction is to neglect or overemphasize one or other of these components of our journey of faith; it is a detour and causes us to waste valuable time.
Discovering God's presence in others is a mystical experience. If God is to be found in all things, our search should focus on those who are created most to God's image and likeness: our fellow human beings. We see our neighbors' talents for what they are, not through envious eyes, but as welcome gifts from the Divine Source. As gifts these are worthy of gratitude. They remind us that our journey to God is a social as well as personal one. Our searching together becomes an act of love -- of both God and neighbor -- and thus bears the imprint of the basic Christian public testimony: "See how they love one another." And love is wrapped in mystery so that, by seeking to find God in others, we experience a foretaste of the ultimate experience of Mystery.
This experience can be highly fruitful, for God invites us through others to become doubly creative: we discover God's creativity in the uniqueness of ourselves; and we are encouraged to assist others to grow in creativity as well, and thus we grow together in appreciating the gifts given to them. Self-centeredness gives way to social centeredness. At this stage it is well for us to do a self-examination as to relations with others. Are we willing to offer prayers for their needs? Are we compassionate? Do we work together with them through democratic process to better our world? Do we petition for better government in league with like-minded citizens?
To some degree this social interaction extends beyond the human realm and includes all creation, because God is everywhere. Awareness of God's presence grows with our expansion of solidarity. People are correct in saying they find God in nature, but how inclusive is their "nature?" In another sense, they are selfish, if they regard their individual quest as sufficient, and not shared within an emerging believing community. Earthhealing is inherently social as is any authentic Eco-Spirituality, and thus a quest that is not shared with other people in some manner lacks the Earthhealing power we all must exercise at this critical time.
Prayer: Lord, help each of us to grow in our sociability.
"Lord, inspire the attendees at the Paris Climate Change Conference."
Bear Glacier Panorama, near Stewart, British Columbia, Canada.
December 5, 2015 Rendering a Time for Everything
There is a season for everything, a time for every occupation under heaven: (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
We can sense when we are needed -- and now is the time to join forces with others of good will and see that our joining and our awareness of moving together towards a common end allows us to discover the Divine Presence needed to overcome our addictions.
Some people like diagrams more than others. Bear with us now as we do what has never before been done in Daily Reflections. We present a diagram as to the presence of the HERE, NOW and WE in a plan that is both socially-oriented and ends- (teleologically) oriented. Our growth in consciousness involves specific place (our current stance), time (the present moment), and creatures (human and other) in our support community.
Through the eyes of faith we see that our Eco-Spiritual search is directed to finding God as a terminus of our restlessness -- and this we do best when working with others in a grand process of collaboration. What we have not yet reached, impels us forward and stimulates our enthusiasm. The urgency to remove barriers of division is based on the desire to be all in all and to urgently achieve together using the needed services of all. Our being HERE with God allows us to be centered and not thrash about for new direction. WE includes all humans of good will and ultimately all creation: as the subject of our search, encouragement in our ongoing quest; emerging vision of all being; and stimulus for our enthusiasm -- and let's look at this with a diagram if you please.
I am aware of God's presence HERE (a point) WE reside in a field of x and y social dimensions (a plane)
A shared vision is NOW up ahead of us in the future (time)
The three-dimensional setting is an ideal order in which agents are expected to work. Growth in consciousness is movement in time.
Prayer: Lord, grant us as agents of change the agents to work together and share a common urgency and destiny.
"Lord, inspire the attendees at the Paris Climate Change Conference."
December 6, 2015 Preparing the Way of the Lord as Heralds
A voice cries in the wilderness; Prepare a way for the Lord; make his paths straight. (Luke 3:5)
As the voice cries out we gain that sense of urgency to hear and see in spiritual ways. Yes, Christ came to us that first Christmas in a world waiting longingly; he comes to us today in the Eucharistic presence and nourishment for our continued journey; he will come again as king of kings and Lord of the universe to deliver the kingdom to the Father. We were in his mind when coming long ago; we are in his mind as he is companion to us now, moving with us on our sacred mission; he welcomes us into the Divine Family at our Baptism and invites us to enter into an eternal glory. We have a past, present and future with the Lord.
As companions of the Lord we are to help prepare the way. The Lord's presence is not just a singular relationship, but involves many others who have the Lord's presence as well. As part of the family we prepare by assisting the needs of others in compassion and collaboration. To embrace another has its special place at times of mourning, on arrivals and departures, within sincere fellowship, with congratulations, and in times of need and sickness. Gesture says more than words, brings togetherness, and expresses both compassion and joy. Just as there are times for embraces, there are times when others need to be left alone, to figure things out by themselves; they need their personal sacred space, and by honoring them we too prepare the way for the Lord. Thank heavens for sensitive people, who know the sacred space of others, especially those who hurt. And there are plenty who hurt.
As our world comes together more closely through social media forms of instant communications, our neighborhood shrinks and we become more mindful of extended responsibilities. Often human needs cannot wait, and thus our Advent is a season of urgency. We are not a privileged elite who may sit back and watch the Lord do miracles for our satisfaction. We are humble servants; we are aware of human needs and work together to alleviate them. As yeast is needed to raise the dough, we raise the social consciousness of a world in need of seeing urgency in the task before us. We are called to be vigilant and to do this through our Earthhealing.
If we see the critical nature of the times we realize that now is the moment to prepare the way. Now is the acceptable time; now is the day of salvation. In an unrealistic manner, we can live in the dreamy past or in a visionary future, or we can deaden our senses through drugs and other allurements. We forget where we are and the present situation. This precious moment of reality is more real in the year's ending, for in retrospect we are ever more aware of the unfinished work before us. The poor call out in their hunger and lack of lodging and our duty as fellow human beings is to open our ears and eyes to hear and see them.
Prayer: Lord, help us be more sensitive to the needs of others and to recognize that the holiday season may be one where more social exchange is called for; give us the grace to see our time and place as preparers for your holy Word.
"Lord, inspire the attendees at the Paris Climate Change Conference."
December 7, 2015 Hastening the Day of the Lord as Catalysts Since everything is coming to an end like this, you should be living holy and saintly lives, while you wait and long for the Day of God to come, when the sky will dissolve in flames and the elements melt in the heat. What we are waiting for is what he promised: the New Heavens and New Earth, the place where righteousness will be at home. (II Peter 3:11-13, Jerusalem Bible)
Growing awareness of ebbing physical energy strikes us as to our limited time span. We walk slowly and do not run, drive less and more carefully; we reduce the space tilled for gardening each year. Diminishment occurs and a growth in wisdom is welcomed, for in the shortening span of time we are inclined to a holy haste.
The beginning citation from the Second Letter of Peter is translated differently in various texts. To long for and wait for the coming of the Lord is somewhat passive and does not necessarily contain an active characteristic. The Holy Bible New International Version says, "as you look to the day of God and speed its coming." A slightly different translation is found in the Inclusive New Testament with the words, "Look for the day of God, and try to hasten it along" (II Peter 3:12). The concept of speeding or hastening (speudonitas in Greek) is affirmed by scholars (personally for me by the late Jesuit scholar Frank Gignac in our seminary days together); thus Peter's words contain an active participation in the upcoming event. To hasten is to accelerate much like leaven, as meant in Jesus' teachings about the coming of the Kingdom of God. This means that an eschatology involves our participation, not our mere viewing from a distance.
Jesus is a catalyst; he prepares his disciples for the urgent task of establishing the Kingdom; they, and now we, are agents of change. Jesus is the light of the world, and so are we; he is salt and so are we; he is leaven and so are we. All three of these common symbols can produce catalytic effects in one or other way. While we move to eternal light, we are other christs who are lights that triggers life and photosynthetic growth; yes, we are leaven who give attractive texture to a bland world; we are what makes the dough of our world rise. When properly timed and placed we become the agents of change, like chemical or biological catalysts.
Through our baptism we become agents of change -- enzymes, leaven, yeast, chemical catalysts, all dynamic strategic agents; we are immersed in the dough of our world and yet are different. The kingdom of heaven is like the yeast a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour till it was leavened all through (Matthew 13:33, also Luke 13:20-21). Peter goes on to tell us that our lives must be godly, for the work ahead is so demanding. The transformation is truly dramatic and we need to be actively watchful for the advent of Christ who came once, is present sacramentally and will come again in glory. We are within his company and are called to act like him as catalysts to the masses.
Prayer: Lord, allow us to see that waiting is an activity and longing involves a strong streak of service.
"Lord, inspire the attendees at the Paris Climate Change Conference."
Cladonia cristatella, British soldier lichen.
December 8, 2015 Accelerating the Changes Demanded
Mary's Feast today reminds us that her preparation in conception was a key component of Salvation History, when the divine and human touched in a very special way. Looked at more deeply we are part of Salvation History as catalysts of change.
To hasten is to increase our growth in consciousness through responsible action on both individual or collective levels. If an environmental disaster occurs or a region suffers hunger, response time is quite critical. People working together and conscious of each other's needs, enhance awareness -- a feedback loop. However, this process is not automatic, nor always moving towards progress; freedom to say "yes" or "no" means that process is not always and everywhere progressive. Hindrances occur and demand watchful vigilance and collaborative efforts at many levels -- and prayers as key ingredients as well. Catalysts are fragile and need to be protected from poisoning, lest deceleration occurs through our imperfections or exterior persecution.
Our vigilance begins at a grassroots level. We are our family, our community, and our Earth's humble homemakers. We are not to mess up our home, for that hinders the coming of the Lord. The ecos must be maintained, cleaned up, healed, protected, and improved. Healing becomes a part of this homemaking, and the more we heal, the greater the acceleration of the coming of the Kingdom. Let's not tempt the Lord by messing up our world. It is like people who fail to care for their own health, expectING God will perform a miracle to save them from a self-inflicted ailment.
Welcoming others is part of authentic homemaking, even when the abode is a humble one. Our love gives it warmth, for even an affluent place can be cold and uninviting. Let's face it, an Earth in which the affluent "have's" consume a great portion of resources and the "have nots" go hungry is not a fully inviting place. Affluence suffocates us by drawing attention to luxury demands and unimportant trivia, making us self-centered and forgetful of others, and drowning out the cries of the poor. Rather than making Earth a home, affluence segregates the people and creates the gated-communities that ultimately damage the global home -- and decelerates the efforts to hasten the day of the Lord. Delicate catalysts can be easily poisoned -- and affluence is a major source of poison that corrupts our understanding of an authentic Eco-Spirituality.
"Thy Kingdom Come" is a prayer, a hope, and a yearning: factually, we are immersed in a partly realized Kingdom; prayerfully, we seek courage as participants; hopefully, we are precisely at the right place and time; and finally we need to articulate our yearning for the coming of the Lord. We cannot do this alone, whether individually or as an enlightened people; we need God's help, for the social addictions of our materialistic culture are bent on holding things up. Catalysts are fragile and easily deactivated, and we are the guardians of their success.
Prayer: Lord, help us pray more sincerely "Thy Kingdom Come" and help us discover our role in that coming.
"Lord, inspire the attendees at the Paris Climate Change Conference."
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace, where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.
(Prayer of St. Francis)
I was driving back to my residence when I noticed the street sign a block away saying "No outlet." It struck me that this poor Appalachian place is the end of my road. I am assured through prayer that this is truly the proper place at the proper time -- and my sense of peace returns.
Believers arrive at different conclusions about the condition of our Earth. A pessimistic view has sound scientific basis: global warming, ice cap melting, slowing of Gulf Stream; rising sea levels; deforestation and endangered species to name a few. Some say our Earth is irreparably damaged. On the other side one can cite an optimistic stance: the current Climate Change Conference in Paris and the will of nations and leaders to make committed changes needed to avert catastrophe. Both point and counterpoint can be offered for every peril and every promise.
A realistic view is that the jury is out; continued care and prayerful discernment are needed. Pessimists predict that languages are disappearing at a rate of one every two weeks in this century, a cultural disaster with half the languages disappearing in this century alone. The counterweight is that more and more people have a facility with one or other of the world's major languages -- and that allows more facile and accurate communication. The realistic approach may be to acknowledge both facts and actively support preservation of threatened languages, while encouraging facility of all in a second major language for those in minority language areas.
An authentic Eco-Spirituality seeks solutions to present environmental problems while acknowledging the good on all sides. What is a peril can be transformed into a promise through proper controls and efforts at compromise where possible. Doing so in a realistic manner avoids the panic of the over-pessimistic and the false sense of well being of the over-optimistic.
Today, technological innovations allow communications to cover great distances in extremely short periods of time. We are becoming one neighborhood. Through cell phones and e-mails we are connected with others in ways that were impossible only a few decades ago. Thus, technical instruments are promoting a growth in social consciousness. But the brilliance of promise can be marred by hacking, pornographic sites, disparaging remarks, and other forms of sabotage; these and net neutrality are matters of ongoing vigilance. Promises and perils always exist and must be addressed by responsible citizens.
Prayer: Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand and to be loved as to love.
"Lord, inspire the attendees at the Paris Climate Change Conference."
"Old Man" tree, Bernheim Forest and Arboretum.
December 10, 2015 Acknowledging Being Called to Presence
But the hour will come -- in fact it is here already -- when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth: that is the kind of worshipper the Father wants. (John 4:23)
We are temples of the Holy Spirit; God is present within us and we testify to this Divine Presence through our godly actions. Awareness of this Divine Presence impels us to redouble our respect for fellow human beings -- a respect that extends out to a fundamental commitment to being pro-life. If God is everywhere, then the Divine Presence extends to all places: tabernacles, churches, shrines, Mount Zion, etc. God's Presence invites our personal response -- our testimony to Divine Presence.
Beneficial technology springs from the Eucharistic consecrating act; through God's grace we are empowered to transform matter into the divine. Thus, human beings no longer fear matter but feel comfortable transforming it. If so, then we who are consecrated through baptism have a godly role to play in furthering the ecological HERE. Each of us is not two human beings but a single individual believer, called in our utter humanness and yet called to be other christs; we are aware that God dwells within and we are empowered to proclaim the Divine Presence through our godly deeds. We are not Christ, but we are other christs individually, and the Body of Christ collectively. As Teresa of Avila says, we are the hands, feet and eyes of Christ. We are not the Son begotten from all eternity, but we share eternally (an everlasting life) within the Divine Family; our awareness of the divine and human mission grows as we mature in faith.
God, as Mystery, emerges from within as we grow in awareness. God incarnate is among us -- and we know this both from Scripture and from our lived spiritual experience. Through the Eucharist we grow in this awareness of Presence -- and thus we work in godly fashion. The Holy Other emerges when we say "yes" to what we are called to do in life. When we, as formal Church, become more acutely aware of the God within, our power in mission grows within, a role similar to Mary's at the Incarnation when saying "yes" to be Christ's mother. God Presence emerges through our individual and collective fiat (let it be), but our solemn mission comes with responsibilities: the more we are aware of our neighbor's needs, the more we seek the end; the more we become aware of the need to move forward, the more we call upon God's Presence from within.
Peace of soul involves being at right time and place --- a gift from God. God is here and as Church we answer "present" when called to duty. The culmination of all things involves awareness of emerging Divine Presence. It is when, within an anguish for bringing all to completion, we pray most sincerely Come Lord Jesus (Revelations 22:20). The occurrence will be in God's good time. We need to focus on present determined place where we are certain, while a final time is an inherent indeterminacy by our viewpoint -- so let us focus on where we are in place and time.
Prayer: Lord, help us in giving to receive, in pardoning to be pardoned; and in dying to be born to eternal life.
"Lord, inspire the attendees at the Paris Climate Change Conference."
Celebrate and ponder the 7 weeks of Lent and reflect on Pope Francis' Laudato Si'. View Al Fritsch's free 7-part video series on the Pope's Encyclical on the Environment. Watch this website for details!
December 11, 2015 Generating an Enjoyable Christmas Spirit
Why spend your money on what is not bread, your wages on what fails to satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and you will have good things to eat and rich food to enjoy. (Isaiah 55:2)
Christmas meant for me the taste of oranges -- a rare treat during the Second World War. Now, seventy some years later, citrus fruit is always found in our grocery stores. It now takes an extra effort to realize the bounty we have before us. Appreciation of what we have is enhanced through sharing with people who are less fortunate. That is a Christian tradition, especially at Christmas.
Americans often turn their attention to what is not yet achieved and make every effort to attain more and more material goods which, in turn, do not truly satisfy. That is a secular and materialistic "Christmas" message. In order to combat this, we need to spend greater effort in pursuing spiritual growth, in acquiring awareness of the Divine Presence in our midst and the limited resources it takes to spread a spiritual message. We are called to pray for that awareness of God's presence, especially at Christmas when the Lord comes in a special way into our lives.
Let's remember at Christmas the have‑nots of the world and send donations for those who are far away, and Christmas baskets to those near at home. On another level let's work so that the hunger of so many may be relieved in afflicted lands by socially just policies. Our petitions, letters and calls to legislators help make this a national priority in times when we are often too focused on regional and local needs. Many of us are blessed by having plenty at this time. It is our task to extend blessings to others who are in need -- and this is a good season to begin. We can find giving (and receiving) moments of special joy.
When we use God-given resources we ought to do so efficiently, for that is our responsibility and sense of respect. But we must also balance material with spiritual giving and accompany our actions with a sense of humor. While this is a tall order, since our resources and time are limited, we are confident that the collective creativity of all concerned people will create ways of understanding that we are to grow into being change agents in our world. The God/Man is among us and so we are present in the world but with a practical human and divine touch. This takes a cultivated balance, especially in a materialistic society.
Perhaps that is what Advent is really about: to find the balance of proper things to give and proper ways of receiving with an adequate expression of gratitude. Thus we work on two fronts: active and participative contributions, to influence and accelerate social change; passive ways, to make the present conditions unsuitable for inequality in all its forms. The end is to have a higher quality of life for all.
Prayer: Lord, help us approach Christmas with a balanced sense of giving material goods and encouraging spiritual growth; allow this to become a more balanced life of human and godly deeds.
"Lord, inspire the attendees at the Paris Climate Change Conference."
The crowds asked John the Baptist, "What should we do?"
People of good will are still puzzled as to how to push back a highly materialistic culture and effect change. The answer John gives is one of sharing with people who lack the clothes and food that we have. Of course, Christmas charity is the first way that comes to mind -- and one we must not neglect.
Positive enhancement: Many folks are trying over a period of time to build alternatives to large-scale corporate materialism at the local scene and deserve our support. Some work diligently the entire year in their small craft shops and stores to make a decent living and then must compete on limited occasions with others who reduce their own chances of product sales. If we know someone who needs the wares then here is a great opportunity to make a purchase that really counts. We may have compassion for the crafter whose products are being overlooked. I certainly do. In such a case the greatest gift we can give is an idea of how to promote the wares in a better time, place or format -- and that may prove to be a gift at Christmas. The Internet is an excellent outlet that is often overlooked by those primed to store sales; help them go on line.
Omitting the middle agent is an additional way to take poor folks' crafts and promote them through churches and other non-profit organizations. All people, even the most "green" ones, consume in some degree; as enlightened consumers who know how to use buying power wisely we become instruments to usher in an alternative economy that is not top-down from large corporations. Today, cooperatives can work with producers of everything from coffee to nuts, from pottery to baskets. A wider portion of the income from these sales can be returned to the producer/craftperson through our support of non-profit agents of change and promotion.
Besides direct or indirect support of small craftpersons or growers of produce, another seasons approach is to directly confront crass advertisements that seek to allure consumers in our society: feed your appetites by buying more, discarding the unfashionable, and returning to the market for what appears new and better. Attacking the basic philosophy of crass commercials could be a form of guerrilla activity against corrupt and unprincipled commercial interests. In fact, belittling advertisements can become fun and games, with young people getting into the act in a major way. We can ridicule the promoters of fashionable dress, prescription medicines, unneeded cosmetics, unhealthy junk food, dangerous recreational vehicles, expensive electronic devices, and a host of other items. This debunking process is countercultural and exposes the ephemeral value of costly consumer products bent on planned obsolescence. It is time to change to "green" products that use renewable energy resources, are from worker-owned establishments, and are made safely and with economy in mind.
Prayer: Lord, help us to be creative in ways of bringing a spiritual insight into this season that has been so captured by the forces of materialism; help us bring Christ back into Christmas.
"Lord, inspire the attendees at the Paris Climate Change Conference."
December 13, 2015Rejoicing with Liberation and Inner Peace
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. The Lord is near. (Phil. 4:4-5)
Gaudete Sunday means rejoice, as the word is found in the letters of Paul, Rejoice always, never cease praying. Do not quench the spirit, but let it burst forth within us at all times and in every place. Rejoicing while working for justice contains two aspects -- Christians working for justice see hope in the future; those who bear the injustice see the dignity of being a human person desiring a higher quality of life.
Workers and bearers jointly see the opportunity to overcome injustice, not await the privileged to release resources to the needy. Realizing the hope in our calling is reason to rejoice, not to be dispirited nor to lose heart. We rejoice in our liberation (a past event), the gift of inner peace (present condition), and the anticipation of greater things to come (future possibilities).
Liberation has come. We proclaim a time of jubilation, which is for all oppressed -- prisoners, those in hospices, the elderly, the overlooked in any way. Jesus, the liberator, has come. The first and most basic liberation is to confront the unjust conditions without hating either perpetrators or victims. In bringing justice we discover inner peace, the fruit of spiritual liberation. This message is the Good News that needs to go out to all the world. As the liberated we await the Lord's coming.
Inner peace is present. Gratitude is key to a happy disposition. When a person harbors a desire to have more, a forgetfulness of gifts given, or a demand that someone who cheated them must now repay, there is little happiness, only stress and sadness. No litany of demands is satisfied, and so the unhappiness grows to the detriment of physical and spiritual health. On the other hand, the person who sees all of life as a gift, is not jealous of others who have more of something, because we have so much. Only when that "more" of others is off limits to those in need do we become agitated enough to act. God is present and the source of interior happiness. We find a balance and harmony even while knowing that the world around us is in a most troubled state. We preserve our inner peace while aware of a certain restlessness.
Enthusiasm looks to the future. The faithful hold their enthusiasm even amid bad times and personal troubles. Such an enthusiasm is inspired by God and looks out with faith and confidence to a better future. Enthusiasm means the God within; it is God present with us, giving us creative thoughts, allowing us to mature in a wisdom that embraces all, and inspiring us to share with others. Enthusiasm is more than people bubbling over with exuberance or having a special effervescence. Calmer souls may profess enthusiasm through the twinkle in their eyes. Can we remain enthusiastic even while taking some of life's hard knocks? Troubles will continue but ultimate victory is the hope of our calling -- and we greet it with joy.
Prayer: Lord, fill us with the joy of this season.
Tender young plants, protected by late autumn greenhouse.
December 14, 2015 Practicing the Art of Spiritual Stewardship
Now be patient, brothers and sisters, until the Lord's coming. Think of the farmer: how patiently he waits for the precious fruit of the ground until it has had the autumn rains and the spring rains! You too have to be patient; do not lose heart, because the Lord's coming will be soon. (James 4: 7-8)
Every time I plant seeds, I wonder whether they will sprout, have sufficient moisture in the critical early stage, grow into mature plants, and eventually bear fruit. This inherent uncertainty tries a gardener's patience. Certainly much depends on factors over which I have no control -- but calling for patience. Extend this to ecological issues: the crop is wounded Earth and we are gardeners calling on Divine assistance; our time is limited and justice cannot wait. The dilemma is urgent and that generates a holy impatience. But God is with us.
This dilemma involving limitations in abilities and time calls us to work more with others and to collaborate on the needed activities that must be performed. Where do we put our focus: interior peace of soul or exterior barriers and distractions that must be overcome? How do we resolve what appear to be seemingly irreconcilable tendencies? Do we have a holy restlessness and an interior peace -- a mystical union leading to harmony of the earth-healer? Time is short and resources are gifts from God. How do we used these best with deliberate speed?
Let's look at a broader "stewardship" (responsible service and not personal economics dealing with care or distribution of possessions). Jesus does not speak highly of tithing because he seeks people who are committed to perfection and total giving of self and possessions. Stewardship has a deeper meaning with respect to responsible action: realizing a socio-economic need and giving this a temporal dimension --just as one describes driving distances in congested areas in terms of minutes or hours. In ecological terms, we are aware of need to move to environmentally benign energy resources and the shortness of time to address urgent problems involving climate change.
In realizing our shortness of life (Psalm 90:12) we acquire wisdom of heart. In times of plenty, as at the multiplication of loaves, the scraps were gathered for further use. Awareness of external urgency creates a holy impatience, but this requires patience when realizing that success is more than what one individual can do. Harmonizing interior patience with holy impatience is a challenge. We are not alone; God is with us, author of our resources including our time. We need to learn to use responsibly our limited energy and time as good stewards; we need collaboration with others. Awareness of placement (HERE), propitious timing (NOW), and cooperative interaction (WE) must be seen as directed by God lest we burn out. Theresa of Lisieux, a spiritual prodigy, integrated the gift of Divine Presence with mission needs.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to find how cultivated urgency is compatible with peace of soul.
December 15, 2015 Learning Patience & Restlessness Simultaneously I have come to bring fire to the Earth, and how I wish it were blazing already! (Luke 12:49)
Eco-balance is a goal for an Earthhealer. We become agents of change carrying some cultural baggage that need questioning. Does our insensitivity fostered by affluence block us from resolution of our struggle for patience in a troubled world? How can we explore a holy impatience with what must be done without losing interior peace of soul? Must the privileged affluent be rudely awakened from their inequality? Is there an inspired restlessness drawing us out of ourselves that will not burn us up from within? Is social disorder holding back the world moving to the end? Are we overlooking urgency, the hastening to an eternal NOW?
Does God inspire us to a holy restlessness? Or is this the devil's agenda? Does it resemble the many examples of anguish that Jesus shows in his public ministry (seeing sheep without a shepherd, fields white with the harvest, lack of laborers, ravages caused by sin and injustice), even though Jesus manifested the Divine peace within through prayer and self-control? Are we able to maintain a holy restlessness balanced by interior peace? And how can we make revolution grow among many?
Time is short; needs are great; and yet we human beings seek to compensate and turn away sources of discomfort. As individuals, we run from problems by denying their existence, excusing ourselves because of weaknesses, or escaping to comfort zones of drugs, alcohol, sex, television chatter, or cell phone conversation. As communities, we hold on to what we regard as safe havens of untenable comfort; and as nations, we put vast resources into military security, counter-terrorist measures, and preemptory strikes against those who threaten this security. All of these approaches need serious review.
Holding on to affluence is ultimately impossible and thus is the root of a false restlessness that so easily leads to violence. To allow obstacles to be unchallenged retards the coming of the Kingdom. Excessive consumption by an outmoded economic system leads to the environmental crisis that includes climate change with often listed ill effects such as rising oceans and extreme weather events that will cause many to suffer. All the while the unemployed find violence a justified outlet of their frustration. These issues are certainly unsettling. However, God's Presence shakes us and moves us to action, and sureness of the right direction is what brings peace of soul. Wealth inequality and over-consumption must be confronted.
Seizing the moment faces the following situation:
* The conditions for violent revolution grow;
* Tackling social addiction is a major challenge;
* Inequality in our society is a form of hidden violence;
* Earthhealers need courage to confront violent situations.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to balance our interior peace with a holy restlessness that calls for changing the current situation.
Celebrating the National Park Service, Cumberland Gap.
December 16, 2015Realizing Earthhealing as a Communal Enterprise
A phenomenology of one's journey of faith involves "I" the pilgrim becoming part of a missioned discipleship "we," and as pilgrims moving together from ecologically-conceived independence to a sense of interdependence among all. All the while we grow in our sense of dependence on God in whom we trust.
Discernment is a process of discovering self, our relations with God within, and the need to cooperate with other agents of change who help us avoid detours and navigate the stony paths of life. They assist our growth in reverence for all creation, doing this through prophetic word and loving non-violent service.
Part of our collaborative efforts involve overcoming our own imperfections and then confronting misdeeds affecting our neighbor by those who contribute to the environmental crisis.
Authentic agents of change may find themselves in uncomfortable situations, for prophetic work cuts deeply into the marrow of selfishness -- and may precipitate hostile and even violent reaction, especially in attempts to change the System. In Eco-Spiritual terms, modern prophets must see God as present even among those who cause the mischief, often out of ignorance. The shallow prophet sees only faults and not hidden and suppressed goodness in the perpetrator. Prophets proclaim Good News and part of this is bringing forth good in others laden with imperfections; all the while we do not condone the wrongdoing that hurts us all.
At times such as during winter months, maintaining enthusiasm can be difficult. A cozy hibernation seems inviting, but the prophetic work does not stop with inclement weather. The parable of the Sower (Matthew 13) tells of a bountiful harvest achieved through proper timing (sowing at the right season) and proper placement in fertile ground (not among brambles or footpaths). In global issues, we are in league of sowers of the Word in a grand collaborative effort, for the harvest needed is far larger than a single sower's work. We are to be inspired by the Spirit as teams aware of the Divine Presence (HERE) and the necessity to hasten the Day of the Lord (NOW). Harmony will allow for the simultaneous presences of inner peace and restlessness -- and this is our incarnational event: the God within taking on human limitations and a troubled world. Inner harmony allows us to heal a wounded Earth with full awareness of God's Presence and our limitations -- a unique harmony of divine and human.
Since eternal happiness is our ultimate goal, we seek the elements of that goal: peace of soul, hard work, solidarity among the poor, and growing social, teleological and mystical consciousness. We celebrate by radically sharing with our neighbors their moments of joy. We are aware that any form of wrongdoing brings unhappiness. All things considered, our healing mission must be enjoyable and sharing that joy with others. Yes, God gives us peace even amid the turmoil of this world. We discover this peace in the incarnate Lord who brings healing.
Prayer: Lord, help us learn to heal as a team with you as our constant companion and guide.
December 17, 2015 Selecting a Humble Cedar Christmas Tree
I will plant it on the high mountain of Israel. It will sprout branches and bear fruit, and become a noble cedar. Every kind of bird will live beneath it, every winged creature rest in the shade of its branches. And every tree of the field will learn that I, YHWH am the one who stunts tall trees and makes the low ones grow, who withers green trees and makes the withered green. I, YHWH, have spoken, and I will do it.
Christmas time always has its special songs, religious events, foods, and gift-giving. At our household we, even as youngsters, did not hold the myth of Santa Claus --who could fit down our chimney? However, a generous uncle would suddenly appear on the Eve and frighten us all -- and we all tried to guess who. The most cherished tradition in our family was going out a weekend before Christmas to select a native red cedar (Juniperus virginiana); this "tree" would reign supreme and be decorated for a whole month in a prominent place in our home. Our farm had limestone soil and more than enough cedars, a "weed" bush. However, the selected one would fill our house with a beautiful scent, which reminds me even today of the coming of the Lord -- simple, but fitting perfectly during that post-depression era.
No tree scent tops that of the humble cedar. Yes, some folks regard cedars as pests, but some of us regard them truly as friends -- and made them feel privileged as well:
* The cedar plant is bushy and makes a good hedge, is green the year round, and tolerant of air pollutants. It is perfect for privacy barriers between housing and in the fronts that border roadways, for they serve to reduce noise;
* Cedars are also quick growing wind barriers that can be combined with others or serve by themselves;
* The cedar wood has a composition that defies decomposition for a long period of time and when properly protected from the elements can last an interminably long period; in much the same fashion cedar proves an excellent preservative when fashioned into clothes containers (the cedar chest). Also, some place cedar chips in among stored clothing;
* The cedar boughs are a wonderfully fragrant decorative addition to a holiday adornment. In its simplicity our cedar shares a noble bearing with its Old Testament taller cousins, the cedars of Lebanon. God's advent in flesh to us is to simple people, in simple hill country, in a mere stable, amid farm animals, and with no safe home place. The Christmas message is told by Appalachia's humblest trees and plants, if we but listen.
Prayer: Lord, help us love simple things in life and to pray for those who still appreciate humble ways.
A red-bellied woodpecker, Melanerpes carolinus. (*Photo by Sally Ramsdell")
December 18, 2015 Christmas-Caroling Ought to Be Global
And suddenly with the angel there was a great throng of the heavenly host, praising God and singing: Glory to God in highest heaven. (Luke 2:13-14a)
At our family gatherings we would take time to sing together, for that is part of life. We did this while our parents lived and then even at our mother's funeral we joined in carrying the casket to the grave site singing her favorite songs.
Singing is part of mountain people's life, because it is
part of the mountains themselves -- for the very mountains sing
along with all creation. However, singing extends into the spiritual realms of the angelic choir as well. The arrival of an awaited One, expected for millennia, is something Earth, animals, people, and angels find joy in expressing in their respective ways. Someone starts the religious chant and others take it up. That's the mountain way of expressing religious fervor. And that joy is not only contained in the hills but goes upward to the heavens from plains and deserts and all sorts of places.
The whole universe and all its good creatures break into the sweet sound of music and singing. The song waves go out from one singing group to the next, a concatenation of singing groups, each expressing joy in its own song. It is like the residual sound wave from the Big Bang -- or is it all the same sound? People become united by the word first sung by angelic choirs and now by human ones. Somehow singing becomes incarnating, and the season with many remembered songs allows this approach to be all the more inviting at this time.
They tell that the Trapp Family (of Sound of Music fame) would do their daily chores in the kitchen and suddenly break into songs, harmonizing all the while. Visitors found this refreshing, to say the least, and would gather in the kitchen to partake.
Why shouldn't everyone enter the caroling event? The vibrational ripple effect spreads, moving forward to the entire universe -- the Savior comes! Sounds and harmonious vibrations extend out in a poetic and physical way through the "ether" of the universe. And strangely enough there is a harmony, not evident at first, but more audibly felt with time by those of us who are near. Yes, we are all getting into the rhythm of things, the voices of other folks, the strumming of the fiddle and the sound of the harp and drum, the dulcimer, waves of the sea, and the roar of fiery volcanoes, the sound of thunder and the tinkle of sleet. All sing "glory"! If we listen carefully we hear the Lord singing along.
Prayer: Lord, lift our voice in a chorus of praise and let each of us see that this is part of who we are and who we must become -- collaborators of a New Heaven and New Earth. All this to start here on Earth as the Kingdom of God is starting to be realized. Help us to see that singing is part of hastening the day of your coming.
I tell you most solemnly, when you were young you put on your belt and walked where you liked; but when you grow old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will put a belt round you and take you where you would rather not go. (John 21:18)
It has been a long journey since Earth Day, 1970. Then, it appeared that environmental corrections would be a temporary matter and require moderate readjustment. Through ensuing decades the difficulties have grown, even while moderate environmental progress has occurred. Deeper levels of awareness have occurred along with social media opportunities. We are now aware that we must halt the threatening climate change by changing the structures of our society. As we approach and hasten the time of the Coming of the Lord our responsibilities grow.
The last third of this month will be taken up with reviewing an emerging Eco-Spirituality, because such is absolutely necessary as we move to a new level of consciousness and move to an alternative to replace the current outmoded System that causes the environmental crisis.
In order to adjust to a long-term journey, we need to summarize our Eco-Spiritual insights of this past year for each monthly increment of time. We entered the year knowing full well that an ecological consciousness requires awareness of our uniquely local HERE and NOW, aspects often omitted by other Eco-Spiritual discussions. Relativity enters our own personal environmental awareness. Often the temptation is to generalize in order to capture a wider audience, but in doing so we water down what gives our environment its particular flavor and urgency. Perhaps as we advance from our local experiences we collaborate with others and discover generalized conclusions that apply to all Earthhealers. But to do this we respect where each is coming from HERE and NOW. Primary insight: We must respect our unique environments.
A mutual respect for specific local place and time of all people is the very atmosphere in which environmental healing may occur. This is pre-conditional and cannot be overlooked nor minimized. Any forthcoming and mutually cooperating WE must include allowances for our relative positions of space and time, for the local conditions not only color but influence the characteristics of an emerging Eco-Spirituality. From an ecological standpoint we are confident that the same patterns of healing will emerge, though culturally and emotionally expressed in different ways. Those who omit the local HERE and NOW get lost in their directional bearings and confuse discussion. Individual paths lead to the Light, but our individual paths merge into a well worn pilgrim's highway; both the paths and the highway are part of a vital network where WE work together to bring Earthhealing.
Prayer: Lord, give us wisdom to see the shortness of our time
to act, and the courage to follow the prompting of the Spirit.
Mourning dove, Zenaida macroura, with winter plumage.
December 20, 2015 Willing to Be Peacemakers
He himself will be peace. (Micah 5: 4)
I rose early in the morning before others of our team sponsored by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel. First light was coming and I peered through the eight-foot barbed wire fence surrounding the army outpost where we were staying. Down in the valley below was Bethlehem and it was the only time in my life I regretted not carrying a camera, for how many ever see the city of peace through barbed wire fencing?
We travel with Mary -- bearer of God, to visit her Cousin Elizabeth and consider their meeting -- the hospitality of Elizabeth and the urgency of Mary to help another in need. We look more deeply into this event and Mary bearing Christ, the Incarnate One to another. Are we not called to bear Christ to others? The meeting is expressed with joy of new motherhood among these two; this is accompanied by John as fetus dancing in the womb -- the only such Scriptural occasion. This event affirms motherhood in the deepest fashion for those who can physically bear children. It affirms being Christophers (bearers of Christ) to all believers who participate in bringing Good News to others. We are not mere plants and animals affirming life through existence; we are free to choose being made to the image of God.
Bethlehem is a small and supposedly insignificant town near the great city of Jerusalem, yet destiny was to meet here in Christ's birth. All Christians affirm that the crib and cross are never far apart, for those who celebrate a birth are close to those who suffer and die. In fact, we are all to carry the cross and suffer at times, and we all have the gift of being close to the Lord and so we can celebrate at the crib. The mark of the Christian is to know when to do both and to be content that birth and death each has its time and place. At Christmas we approach the creche in a childlike manner and announce by our presence that Jesus comes to us as a helpless infant. His coming is an invitation for us to be present to others and to know how to open our hearts to the flood tide of the Christmas spirit. This is a time to review the journey we take to bring Christ to others.
Past experience of Christ with us and future anticipation of his coming merge into the celebratory present moment, a time of review, a time of resolution. We ask some basic questions as Christmas approaches: How well did I use my time this past year? How much better will I use the coming year? Isn't that the heart of spiritual growth -- knowing where and how our origin and our destination are integrated? Does this give importance to my ultimate direction? Are we open to receiving the Lord and all that his presence entails? Is this not a season of more intentional hospitality? Are we aware just how much the season pains those who have recently lost a loved one, or who find it impossible to go and be with them this week? Resolve to show compassionate care through letters, calls, visits, gift giving, and meals.
Prayer: Lord, prepare us to bring Christmas joy to others and to ask direction on where to turn our focus at this time.
December 21, 2015 Winter: Pondering Mystery and Overcoming Faults
On this Winter Solstice we initiate a brief survey of the four seasons in our Northern Temperate Zone; this is a review of what was said this year on a month by month basis, starting with January and by Christmas eve ending with December's contribution:
January -- Creation Unveils a Deep Sense of Mystery. This is the month of new life, for plant roots start while we nod off in winter's relaxing mode. We ponder the depths of Divine Mystery, but gradually find the season enchanted by Mystery within, without and beyond. We hear our individual call and find it both repeated event and ever deepening process. Hills and valleys invite us to uncover Earth's deeper treasures. We sense the rich microcosmos beneath our feet and immense vast macrocosmic universe, wondering about richness and vastness and the relation to life. Our hands, head and heart work in harmony that finds expression in art, science and all human undertakings; we feel the exuberance of creative activity, especially within the dignity of manual labor. We are aware through sensory perceptions and experiences, both individual and communal, that God is Mystery.
February -- We Experience Our Suffering Earth with Compassion. In the grayness of February, we confront our individual and collective wrongdoing. Gray naked fields show their scars, a litany of past and current ecological damage resulting from human greed and insensitivity. More is involved than sins of corporate greed and intertwined governmental acquiescence; blame includes our own individual unwillingness to assess and address problems and work together for solutions. We stumble when not looking; we hear discordant sounds and turn away; we are tempted to deny, excuse and escape; we gravitate to sanctity's aroma and yet often turn to local allurements; and we are touched by a sense of compassion or suffering with others. We must do more than describe disasters. Responses go beyond non-confrontational simple living techniques, though these are valuable. Confronting others takes courage that is strengthened through self-denial and prayer.
March -- We Seek a Model Who Is Radically Compassionate. In this month we seek to answer the desire to have a perfect model for healing, teaching and confronting others? As Christians, we turn to Jesus and find him to be a model of love and mercy, of balance and harmony, of action and passion. Christ is able to perfectly balance mercy and anger in his public ministry. As we meditate on Jesus, we discover God's harmony at work in a perfect person worthy of imitation. After seeing God's glorious creation and then glimpsing earthly desolation, we look again. We see a blinding transfiguration: Jesus is consoled and brings this to us -- a simultaneous awareness of Earth's raw experience and Heaven's ultimate victory. As disciples and healers, we learn compassion; as activists we respond with courage; as sensitive believers we experience pain of a wounded world; we face desolation squarely.
Prayer: Lord, help us "enflesh" the words we hear so as to be
compassionate enough to act humanly and godly.
December 22, 2015 Spring: Rising to a More Just Society
We continue our review of the spring months of 2015:
April -- Eco-Justice and Social Justice are Integral. In the freshness of spring we sweep aside status quo notions so that our planet can remain healthy through renewal. Using Jesus as our model, we globalize our concerns; we cannot tolerate the class division of haves and have-nots (structured inequality). God creates a world with enough for everyone, and yet some enclose the commons for their own good. God's mercy and love extends to all, but especially to those who suffer. So we move in godly fashion to a preferential option for the poor. The Word renews, gives life, and enhances our faith experience; we prefer to follow Jesus who is poor; to focus on the most needy, the Anawim of God; to be poor as agents of change in the spirit of the Magnificat; to avoid a reliance on the affluent; to realize that the poor are freer to criticize themselves; and to become authentic Earthhealers who join poor Earth and poor people. The risen Christ shows total self-emptying and spiritual empowerment to a world of basic equality.
May -- We Proclaim Power through Powerlessness. In this floral month we move into the high springtime of our Eco-Spiritual journey. Earthhealing operates at successive stages: seeing the urgent need for saving our wounded Earth; recognizing that justice is due to all living creatures; and realizing that the lowly must rise to take charge as agents of change and be empowered by the Risen Lord in a non-violent manner. We are not anthropocentric, but rather Christocentric through experiencing Easter joy and power. But it is most important that we analyze spiritual power and realize that this is not power over others or the confrontation of power through secular notions of militant power. Christ's spiritual power emerges when accepting our ultimate powerlessness. Through purification in suffering we rise: we see an urgency to act, a willingness to challenge inequality, a solidarity with agents of change and a choice of non-violent procedures. We seek to empower others through belief in the Lord's Resurrection.
June -- We must always act appropriately and Sustainably. Our
reflection on Eco-Spirituality is at mid-point as we delve into the fullness of the paschal mystery. We are commanded to go forth to all creation, and yet we lack instrumentation and media outlets. What on Earth is the answer? Poor folks show the way through non-violent methods. We consider possible appropriate technologies as environmentally benign, low-cost, people-friendly and community-enhancing. The Mission to spread this Good News globally can be performed now through a neutral Internet requiring ongoing vigilance. The empowered poor enter into a re-creation of Earth through Christ's Resurrection/Ascension as defining events and the Incarnate Word as model and Lord. Healers touch a wounded Earth.
Prayer: Lord, make our life an eternal springtime so we can
arouse others to become agents of change in a needy world.
Colony of ants, hard at work in mild winter weather.
December 23, 2015 Coming Closer to the Lord amid Distractions
The second half of the Eco-Spiritual year is the vast season of Pentecost that prepares us to be effective Earthhealers:
July -- Jesus' Personality Is Ecologically Balanced. In the heat of summer we consider the individual obstacles holding us back from being healers of Earth: denial, excuse, escape, self-promotion, fence sitting, spinning wheels, cynicism, and affluence. We affirm that Jesus is the perfect ecologist whose personal good qualities counterbalance barriers that hinder our journey of faith. Thus, through use of talents and self-control we gradually mature in our healing ministry. Assistance is necessary, because healing Earth is a social function demanding give-and-take with others. This is all the more necessary because we are so heavily influenced by the materialistic culture's allurements that lead to self gratification. Through overcoming these barriers we are better prepared to become agents of change. And only Jesus, who has a perfectly balanced personality leads the way.
August -- Let Us Enhance Our Enthusiasm. In this verdant month we discover that gifts of inspiration and resulting enthusiasm are the spice for healing Earth. The Holy Spirit gives us a broadening view of our ecological stance. We begin to see through the eyes of faith a deeper consecrated HERE and NOW and an enhancing WE that includes all people of good will. Mystery enters into ecological consciousness at this deeper level. We strive to justify a restlessness energizing our enthusiasm; this stands in sharp contrast to the "comfort" levels sought by those who compromise their ecological stance with the addictive culture and outdated economic System. We awaken to the trinitarian nature of our undertaking, looking to the Source of all gifts, the Gift (Christ), and the Giving (the Spirit). We show gratitude through deeds by which we participate in Salvation History. Our sense of Mystery is enhanced through our experiences in healing Earth herself.
September -- Only God Is Fitting Nourishment. In this bountiful month we discover a field white with the harvest. As Church, we encourage Earthhealing in community, for our goal is salvation. Through liturgical action of word and deed we give thanks for gifts given; we show work's rhythm and value; we celebrate at the grassroots level; we are nourished by Christ, the divine gift, lest our enthusiasm wane; we proclaim a deeper HERE, NOW and WE that allows us to become prophetic witnesses to confront materialism. We see mother Church as icon of the Trinity and, through her, we transform our individual enthusiasm into communal action following how God works in our world: a harmony of Triune persons sharing love and mercy with us. However, our enthusiasm breeds growing restlessness within our faith communities, which is to be understood more than allayed. We seek direction, a deep sense of urgency and a movement to greater unity.
Prayer: Lord, in our striving we need you and trust in you.
As we approach Christmas we conclude our review of the journey to an Eco-Spirituality during the autumn season that just ended:
October -- Forgiveness Brings Proper Communal Actions. Mother Church gives direction, urgency, and movement to greater unity as a formal community of Earthhealers. The glue of such a personal instrument is the offer by God of a Spirit of forgiveness for ourselves and others; we are free to initiate the Earthhealing process without resorting to incrimination and friction. Through baptism, we are launched on our saving mission; we become conscious of being participants in Salvation History; we are invited to say "yes" to the Spirit in the manner in which Mary said "yes" during the incarnation event. Our awareness grows and we learn that we must share with others within a budding social consciousness. God's sharing of self becomes the model for our action, both on an individual and on the global level; this means radical sharing, promoting, and encouraging global eco-justice initiatives. We establish bonding with Earth, with plants, animals and other human beings, and to some degree we anticipate a natural response of these sub-communities to our own embrace. We seek to establish interpersonal relationships based on our companionship with Jesus.
November -- Social Awareness and Destiny Intersect. In naked November we look to the promised goal of our mission: the New Heaven and New Earth. We are created for God and destined to return to the Triune Majesty, Pure Love, the Omega Point of our life, Christ himself. However, we keep our feet on the ground, for an urgency grows for us to extend neighborhood from locality to all people on the planet. Dreams and visions are welcomed and are achievable. Our awareness grows: we can heal Earth if we have faith, and it takes sacramental life to help keep us open to spiritual growth. Our model of "home" is the prime analog of what our destiny is to be, for we move from a small intimate family of kin to a broader family, the people of God.
To actualize that global movement requires "homework" that involves study, planning, cooperating, mustering resources and engaging in the nitty-gritty of building the new home. But a vision of home with a commitment to work hard is not enough, for that may tempt us to remain only at a local level. We spread our tents of concern to a world in turmoil lacking basic needs of food, housing, recreation, education, environmental protection and home care. We grow in teleological (the end ahead in time) and social (our neighbors in space) consciousness so that through our fidelity, fruit may result. Things can and will go wrong; opportunities can be lost; affluence can deaden our companions. The risk of losing the opportunity to succeed makes us more determined to participate while awaiting the coming of the Lord. We do not know the results of our shorter-term actions, for only God knows these and their relationship to the final end -- but we are determined to carry on. Individually we need be faithful, not successful.
December -- We Hasten the Day of the Coming of the Lord.
In experiencing God's Presence in our midst, we move from ecological HERE to a deeper one that points to a proper end of time, perceived NOW through the eyes of faith, and that can only be achieved through a cooperative effort of a WE who believe in the future. We are beginning to perceive with greater clarity the countenance of Christ shining forth in all Creation, and this becomes a motivating force in our quest. Furthermore, our senses are more perceptive -- a true mark of an authentic Eco-Spirituality that is grounded in Earth and moving outward to greater unity.
We discover through the God within that we are catalysts of change when properly placed, and that catalytic action involves hastening and accelerating the healing process towards which we are called. When all elements of our individual and social awareness harmonize, we understand the direction of our healing with greater clarity. The mystery of divine purpose (Ephesians 1:9a), which was hidden, now emerges gradually in space and time and within a believing community. But we cannot embrace this Mystery as a personal devotion, removed from the service we are to render in healing our wounded Earth; we must share it with others just as God communicates Godself to us.
Prayer: May our review of the four seasons be an enlightening tour in the journey of faith undertaken this year. The thirteen (including introduction of December 19th) insights are all works-in-progress. Your comments and reflections are most welcome.
You see, God's grace has been revealed, and it has made salvation possible for the whole human race and has taught us that we have to give up everything that does not lead to God, and all our worldly ambitions; we must be self-restrained and live good and religious lives here in this present world, while we are waiting in hope for the blessing which will come with the Appearing of the glory of our great God and savior Christ Jesus. (Titus 2:11-13)
A blessed Christmas to each and everyone of you, and do enjoy this most Holy Day.
The Earthhealing Team
Detail of Manchester Prison razor wire.
taken from Appalachian Sensations, by Al Fritsch, SJ with photos by Warren Brunner. Click here for info.
December 26, 2015 Glistening Razor Fence at Manchester Prison
The spirit of the Lord YHWH has been given to me, for YHWH has anointed me, sending me to bring good news to the poor, to bind up hearts that are broken; to proclaim liberty to captives, freedom to those in prison. (Isaiah 61:1)
Until it was too difficult to travel two hundred miles round trip to serve federal prisoners at Manchester Kentucky's two prisons on a periodic basis, I found these visits times of realism.
The peace of Christmas is shaken by the martyrdom of Stephen today and Feast of the Holy Innocents the day after tomorrow. The reality of Christ's coming is shown in those who give witness in and through their lives. We ought to be Christian realists.
As winter sets in, for one brief moment, Manchester Prison seems like a giant Christmas display set amid the hills of Appalachia on a reclaimed strip mine. But on closer inspection one finds razor wire, guard posts, and a vast "corrections" institution. When the spotlights are shining during a wintry night, the place sparkles like sprawling shrubs with a million Christmas lights. But behind the glittering wire, over a thousand unfortunate prisoners are cast away from society. Some keep the secret of their own offenses in fear of being shunned by fellow prisoners. Some remember the hurt caused loved ones back home. Others regret the loss of time that could have been used to make a decent living for their families. All hurt separately and especially during the holiday season.
Prisons in Appalachia have become a growth industry, an opportunity for employment for local people. America has more prisoners per capita than any other industrialized nation. We incarcerate them in expensive institutions, and neglect service programs by which convicts could make positive contributions to society. We as a people have much to learn, even from primitive cultures, on how to rehabilitate offenders. Can't a free society find better methods for social re-incorporation than razor wire?
Besides, the racial makeup with Blacks and Latinos is far out of proportion to American population. Most fail to see that part of this disproportion is that the poor do not have the adequate legal representation that is afforded by more economically privileged White people. It is not more crime, but less legal assistance -- and this tends to show once we become acquainted with individuals who are so imprisoned by society. Note also there are more Blacks imprisoned than those of the same age group enslaved at the time of the Civil War. Far too disproportionately, and that raises the question of racial discrimination along with unfair procedures leading to massive incarceration.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to proclaim liberty and make such words meaningful at Christmas, when Word becomes liberating deed.
Three days later, they found him in the Temple, sitting among the doctors, listening to them, and asking them questions; and all those who heard him were astounded at his intelligence and his replies. (Luke 2:46)
We are aware of conferences (as in October in Philadelphia of the focus on the family, that key building block of an emerging alternative social structure. The Temple episode is a family story. Jesus is actively engaged even in his early life, for the mark of many activists is that their whole being is engaged early on. Jesus finds creative ways to discover opportunity to develop his calling -- a sacred messiahship as the deepest of callings. But he does this in a way that other youth can learn to follow with minds and hearts. William Wordsworth says "The child is the father of the man."
Mary and Joseph enter into parenting. In Jesus' quest for autonomy his parents are left in a state of anxiety, much as others who raise children have such moments. Mary and Joseph learn that Jesus is changing as he goes from infancy to early manhood. A certain distance or autonomy develops as individuals think about the life ahead of them. Jesus has a horizon opening before him and for better or worse this is to be honored. All too often this involves the painful sacrifice of separation from the family unit.
Jesus is a venturing participant in the psychological journey of the Holy Family. As predicted by Simeon, Mary is reflecting on these matters in her heart, and patient Joseph is growing in wisdom as Jesus uses the term "father" to mean the divine person to whom he is begotten, a heavenly realm beyond human understanding. Amazingly, this is the one public encounter in the canonical books that speaks of Jesus' teenage growth in wisdom and understanding. Like so many youth, Jesus ventures to separate from his close-knit family. Jesus is an exuberant and active youth, able to move faster than kinfolks in that traveling group, which included both young and old; he knows he can catch up and so spends time in that focal Temple that will captivate him in the course of ministry -- being about "his Father's business." This is his bar mitzvah.
Mary and Joseph are tolerant and trusting. Like other parents they strive to understand who Jesus is becoming and to allow space for him. Upon finding him, they show their anxiety and yet trust that he is coming to know himself as well. He becomes obedient to them and most likely keeps them informed more about where he is going. Concern for all becomes a family endeavor and each finds a place during the teen years. Mary is far more tolerant than what some would expect, and yet Jesus is truly her son -- and both match an activistic character perfectly. This Temple experience is growth to a higher mission, both for the son and for the mother, for an entire family is on a journey of faith.
Prayer: Lord, help us promote family values whenever and
wherever possible, for such support is utterly needed today.
December 28, 2015 Healing Earth has Trinitarian Characteristics
A Triune God creates, redeems and sanctifies the world in which we live; then surely believers bent on doing godly deeds ought to find footprints of the Trinitarian character if we but look in our world. Is this also the reasoning behind Augustine's and Thomas Aquinas' focus on human intellectual activities patterned after the God who creates us in the divine image? That is certainly a noble undertaking. For these and other early thinkers what greater area of human activity is there than our individual intellectual process? Perhaps there is a greater activity -- our mission to save our wounded Earth.
Healing Earth takes more than each individual working alone in splendid isolation working on the thought process; it takes thought (head) plus practical skills (hands) and collaboration (heart) among kindred spirits. This integrated collaborative enterprise is a mission that reveals the godly efforts that were considered too mundane (pertaining to this world) for an intellectual elite. With the growth of social consciousness we have a deepening mission to renew our Earth with compassion and a sense of duty. We renew as a re-creative act and save a wounded Earth through filling what is wanting in the sufferings of Christ. The believers inspire other to partake in the urgent task ahead. Our renewing, saving and sharing talents reveals the Triune God at work.
All our godly acts can be done pro-actively through work or through prayer united to those working; in unison, these reveal something of God's creative, redeeming and unitive activity. Taken as "integral ecology," or participating as one renewing act, involves instituting a renewable energy and radical sharing economy that is an alternative to the outmoded System now in effect. The process similar to intellectual process with a footprint of our Triune God is far more global, more practical, and more radically sharing than a mere individual's experiencing, understanding, judging and being moved to action -- and yet that is necessary also. At the heart of this insight is why democratic process is closer to the divine act than is a top down approach of one person over another. The process is a joint collaboration of true persons working together and is an image of the creative, redeeming and love-communicating activity of our Triune God.
Believers manifest this Triune character to a greater degree than those who act but do not see its godly characteristics. The Triune mystery emerges when we perceive the Divine Presence within us, the movement to our destiny in Christ, and the Spirit of enthusiasm energetically pressing us forward. See Diagram on December 5. Enlightening others is to the Greater Glory of God. The more we grasp our own part in the Divine Plan, the better we are able to participate in the New Creation.
Prayer: Lord, may the triune Mystery enter the marrow of our bones and open our hearts individually and collaboratively; help us to recognize the Divine Mystery of Giver, the Gift and the Giving. Only you can be our origin, Center and Eternal Destiny.
December 30, 2015 Earthhealing as a Meaningful Calling
God grant me the serenity to accept things I cannot change, the courage to change things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. (Serenity Prayer)
Earthhealers are Christ's friends, temples of the Holy Spirit, cooperators with the Creator in the work of the New Creation. The undifferentiated Mystery, first seen in a child's crawling about, now returns to the travel-worn who can still heal through the experience of life's journey. Healers hopefully emerge as mystical, compassionate, prophetic, justice-oriented, spiritually empowered, practical, balanced, inspired, nourished, merciful, expectant, patient and yet restless people. Christ becomes one of us so that we can become like him in a godly way -- the meaning of which grows on us. Healers aspire to divine love.
Earthhealers can become loving members of a global and sacred Family and seek to incorporate all the spiritual characteristics introduced in this journey of faith: a sense of mystery and the glory of creation; a suffering world in need of redemption; a person who is healer, teacher, and prophet, all as perfect ecological model; a unity of social and eco-justice; a profound spiritual empowerment of the Resurrection at the moment of realizing our powerlessness; appropriate technology as the poor's instrument of change; a balanced personality among individuals working for common goals; inspiration leading to the reality of a growing enthusiasm; formal consecration that receives divine nourishment, forgiveness and radical sharing with our neighbor; an emerging social and teleological awareness; and a Divine Presence that encourages us to help hasten the Day of the Lord.
Some regard this Eco-Spirituality as too localized (to our grassroots habitat), confining (limited to current conditions in time), and sectarian (focused on our religious or political stances). However, every eco-spirituality, if authentic, must be aware of place and circumstances (weather, topography, culture, etc.) that are relevant to a threatened world in which we are present. Each is ecologically active; each is willing to overcome fear of criticism. In fact, by starting with where and how we are, we have the freedom to burrow into deeper levels of Eco-Spirituality. We use our senses to see ultimate goals, hear our vocational call, smell flowers, taste good foods, and feel the vibrations of the Lord's Coming. And this creates rich variety.
Prayer: Oh Triune God, while weary from travel, we are excited about what lies ahead of us as healers of this Earth. You encourage us to surrender our independence to your grace and mercy. We discard material allurements and distracting ideas. We affirm your Presence, as the Day of the Lord approaches. We work with people of good will to eliminate injustice. Help us to join with our sisters and brothers in collaboration to bring forth your day. Do not let the afternoon sun blind us; keep us clear-visioned, for we are like moths drawn to you -- pure eternal Light.
With me in them and you in me, may they be so completely one that the world will realize that it was you who sent me and that I have loved them as much as you have loved me. (John 17:23)
In the "Contemplation to Attain Love of God" Saint Ignatius calls attention to two points: that love ought to manifest itself in deeds rather than words; and that love consists of mutual sharing of goods. The lover gives and shares possessions with the beloved. Healers of Earth are people who are doers of deeds and sharers of benefits. To "attain" means reaching a goal and that is God, who is Love. We must open ourselves to see that God loves us concretely by sharing Jesus with us. Jesus overwhelms us with the Divine Love and leads the way for our journey, including a bestowal of freedom, a risk in letting us be open in choosing our path.
All love works two ways; between lover and beloved. What do we do to return this divine gift of love? Plants and animals give praise in their limited manner. We do more; we can freely return that love or refuse it. If heaped with love and open to growth, we are moved to reciprocate through deeds done for, with, and among others. Our deeds express God's love: the more the Word of God impels us to act, the more we manifest the Incarnate Word through our actions. We become other christs in the process of healing what is wounded. We are aware of shortness of time to act and where to serve best through companionship with others.
We are instruments, crude and chipped as they are, in the hands of the Almighty. Openness allows our healing to be more meaningful, for in seeking to heal we are healed. We share with our neighbor -- our fellow human beings, our fellow creatures, and Earth herself. This communion of love extends beyond this very Earth to the Communion of Saints and the Suffering who await the union that is to come. By breaking out of self-centeredness we radically share all we can give with all who can receive. We do not seek removal from the world (John 17:15), but to be an example of the union of God's Divine Presence in a troubled world.
Our collaboration is with others; we can't act alone. I cannot save this troubled world alone, but WE can -- if we work together. When we consider growth in consciousness and meaningful change, the need for cooperative endeavors becomes a key ingredient to the making of a new System that is not based on profiteering or excessive competition. It takes all our cooperative skills with a trust in the almighty to bring this about, along with patience and considerable forbearance.
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all that I have and possess. You have given all to me. To you, O Lord, I return it. Dispose of it wholly according to your will. Give me your love and your grace, for this is enough for us. St. Ignatius of Loyola
-- Happy and prosperous New Year from the Earthhealing Team --