Initial Reflection on Laudatio si

Merton--These day lilies are saints praising God.

Merton–These day lilies are saints praising God.

[Click on photo for larger photo]

It took several days and committed determination to work my way through Laudatio si, Pope Francis’ thorough analysis of the human/ecological crisis. The papal letter is worthy of detailed study. Various non-Catholic church groups have enthusiastically endorsed it. Francis is speaking from a scientific mind and a Christian heart to address the crisis that faces humankind worldwide.

In my opinion, the Pope has used the best available science to conclude that human activity is largely responsible for the environmental crisis. Deniers, such as Jeb Bush, say that the pope should not be mixing religion and politics; however, this very week, Republican presidential hopefuls have met with Ralph Reed in Atlanta to learn how to mix their politics with religion in the upcoming campaign. Spiritual values apparently become an impermissible mixture of religion and politics when an individual’s religion and politics disagree with what is being put forth. Economics, moral values, science, religion and politics must work together to solve the eco crisis threatens mankind and all of creation.

The major argument of the letter, which I plan to analyze more thoroughly over time, is that greed, consumerism and a throw away culture have created the crisis. Humankind has confused “dominion” over creation with the rape of natural and human resources regardless of the cost to humanity now and into the deep future. Economic domination based on greed drives decision making and impedes workable solutions to the world crisis.

The Pope casts his appeal in terms of Gospel values—love, justice (especially for the poor), and the common good of all humankind. The pope resuscitates perennial human values such as beauty:

By learning to see and appreciate beauty, we learn to reject self-interested pragmatism. If someone has not learned to stop and admire something beautiful, we should not be surprised if he or she treats every object as something to be used or abused without scruple (215).

Francis reminds us that we come to know the Creator through the “beauty of creation.” This is music to my photographer’s heart. Long accustomed to a domination based approach to photography—shooting pictures, capturing images—I have learned a new approach through my study of Thomas Merton’s photography. Christina Valtners Paintner, abbess of the monastery of the arts,” also helps me understand the very approach to creation the Pope is endorsing. All creation is a gift from God, however we want to define “God.” I no longer take photographs. Rather, I receive images which become icons of the reality they represent. I am not an objective observer with a machine called a camera. I am a human being who is immersed in creation; therefore, I am very much a part of what I am photographing and the final product reflects the subject and my personality.

Teilhard de Chardin who was ostracized by the Church died in obscurity. Chardin must be rejoicing in his grave because Francis roundly rejects the false dichotomy between matter and spirit, “Christianity does not reject matter.” (235) Francis, like his name sake, has highest regard for the material universe which embodies the Creator. Thomas Merton learned from Blake—everything is sacred. All creation reflects the glory and splendor of God. As Gerard Manley Hopkins put it, “The earth is charged with the grandeur of God.”

Throughout the letter, Francis is so aware of one thing. Thomas Merton put it so well, “We are already one. . . . we have to become what we are.” We are intimately related to the Creator, one another, all creatures and the material universe. This fundamental interdependence requires that we reassess on position vis a vis the material world and our interaction with that world. We are not conquerors and controllers; we are stewards of God’s creation. How we relate to creation affects our very life on this planet.

From the heights of such theological arguments so well phrased, the Pope also sounds a practical, pragmatic note:

There is a nobility to care for creation through little daily actions, and it is wonderful how education can bring about real changes in lifestyle. Education in environmental responsibility can encourage ways of acting which directly and significantly affect the world around us, such as avoiding the use of paper and plastic, reducing water consumption, separating refuse, cooking only what can reasonably be consumed, showing care for other living beings, using public transportation and car-pooling, planting trees, turning off unnecessary lights, or any number of other practices (211).

Finally, the Pope sees that the “ecological crisis is also a summons to profound interior conversion.” (217) “Gratitude, gratuitousness, [and] a recognition that the world is God’s loving gift” are elements of conversion.

The Pilgrim

Hamilton Gardens

Hamilton Gardens

Pilgrim God,

Equip me for the trip.

Be with me on the hardest journey–

the inner journey into nothingness.

Let me not veer from this path.

Let me not become deterred

by hardship, fear, strangeness, doubt.

Show me the steps I must take

toward a wealth not dependent on possessions,

toward a wisdom not based on books,

toward a strength not bolstered by might,

toward a true self not falsely masked,

toward a care for creation not based on pillage,

toward a God not confined to heaven.

Help me to find you deep down within

as well as in the stardust of others and your creation.

Help me to find myself as I walk in other’s shoes.

Help me to know that you are the Love within

and remove all obstacles to Love shining through.

You alone are my walking stick—

You are above me and below me,

In front of me and behind me,

Within me and without me,

As I tread the unknown path

To now-here.

 

Adapter by J. Patrick Mahon from “Prayer Song from Ghana,”

In Christine Valtners Paintner, The Soul of the Pilgrim, 40.

Christ “easters” in Us

Easter chick

Easter chick

Jesus Christ is risen today! Alleluia! Shout, “Alleluia!”

It is spring—the season of new life. I went to Gatorland in Orlando last Thursday and new life abounded as mother birds sat on the nests and as they fed those already born. Baby egrets with their spiked hairdos reaching for food. Easter is about new life in Christ.

In the “Wreck of the Deutschland,” Gerard Manley Hopkins, wrote about the Risen Christ:

Let him easter in us, be a dayspring to the dimness of us . . . Continue reading

Palm Sunday Homily

The Way of the Cross c. J. Patrick Mahon

The Way of the Cross
c. J. Patrick Mahon

Today is Palm Sunday. We began with a Gospel reading describing Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem right before Passover. Then we read a section from Isaiah about the Suffering Servant—an apt description of Jesus for the early church. Then we read Paul’s vivid description of Jesus who humbled himself unto death as a prelude for the reading of the passion and death.

This week we focus on the death by crucifixion of Jesus. If I were to ask you, “Why did Jesus die?” how would you answer me? . . . You readily told me that Jesus died for our sins. This was not the thinking of the early church. This view of Jesus’ death only came about with Anselm of Canterbury in the 11th century. It made sense then but no longer makes sense. What God, but a vengeful medieval God, would require the death of God’s beloved son to make up for our sins? Continue reading

Contemplative Nonviolence

DB0A2719_DxOAt a retreat this past weekend with Pax Christi Florida, Fr. Bob Cushing, a contemplative activist, who is a nonviolent follower of the God of Peace, brought me to a new level of awareness. He woke me up from my comfortable slumber.

How can I live nonviolently in a world of violence—wars and rumors of wars, heated, violent political invective throughout the country, multinational companies that place profit above people, millions living in poverty, nuclear weapons at ready, children starving every day, one out of six people in the land of plenty living in poverty? The list goes on and on. Break out the sackcloth and ashes—lamentation, grieving is in order. As Father Bob and John Dear remind us, we have to grieve before we can move into nonviolence. Continue reading

Our Path

Taken with Canon FX film camera

Taken with Canon FX film camera c. J. Patrick Mahon Photography

 

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. (Thomas Merton, (Thoughts in Solitude)

Homily Third Sunday Lent

We can fly like eagles or scrounge like vultures

We can fly like eagles or scrounge like vultures

Today’s readings offer much food for reflection. We could talk about commandments, the Law, the Torah. Suffice it to say that, for Jews, the Torah, the Laws, are seen as a positive thing. The Law sets them free. This is much different from our individualistic Western approach where we often disdain law as confining us. The Torah sets the structures for people living together. Religion is never just about me. It is about us. True religion fosters love and compassion for all others. Sometimes this is not the case. Back during the time of the great Haiti earthquake, I heard a conversation at the pool—you can learn a lot at the pool—about how great the Gospel sing had been the night before. The next conversation of heard was, “I do not know why we are bring all those injured Haitians here and treating them at our expense.” True religion has to be based on justice and compassion and the Law set the foundation. Continue reading

Ash Wednesday Homily

The Lenten Path c. J. Patrick Mahon

The Lenten Path
c. J. Patrick Mahon

It is that time of year again—Ash Wednesday. Lent has always been seen as a time for repentance. Pope Francis defines repentance as thinking and acting differently. Joel tells us that God does not want tokens and sacrifices. God wants hearts that are open to the Christ dwelling within.

Lenten practice should allow Christ to come more alive in our hearts. Traditionally, even going back to Judaism, the practices are prayer, fasting, and alms. Hence Jesus’ admonitions in today’s Gospel. By prayer we do not mean repetitive lists of wants and needs directed toward God. Lenten practice should deepen our prayer life as resting in God. Listening to God, not chattering away about our various wants and needs. Almsgiving is central to Christian practice. This week, Pope Francis opened three shower facilities on Vatican property for the homeless—almsgiving to the ultimate. Fasting means refraining from food and many other things. Fasting from consumption and consumerism is not a bad idea. Continue reading

Boehner Has Invited an Anarchist to Address Congress

It Is God's Creation

It Is God’s Creation

“Instead of listening to people, the president is standing with a bunch of left-fringe extremists and anarchists,” Boehner told reporters Wednesday. Boehner’s comments really chapped my grits. I oppose the XL pipeline on religious and environmental grounds.

I really took exception to being called an “anarchist.” I am not proposing the overthrow of government or anything like that. I am simply saying that we do not have hegemony over God’s creation. I also know that, if we mine and use up all the fossil fuel still unmined, we will self-destruct. The environment cannot handle all the carbon dioxide that will be produced by such wanton and reckless choices. Continue reading

Homily 2_7

Mating Blue Herons

Mating Blue Herons

If today’s message ended with the lament of Job in his pain and suffering, I would end the sermon right now. But, I will not. Today’s readings offer hope and chicken soup for our souls.

But first, a little side trip. The Gospel reading tells us that Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law. Did you ever think about what Peter was thinking? I have. I bet Peter was thinking that if Jesus heals her the nagging will start all over again. “Peter, when are you going to get a job? Why don’t you go back to fishing so you can support your wife and kids instead of following this wild-eyed preacher all over the backwoods of Galilee?” Poor Peter!

After the healing, the Gospel tells us that Jesus healed many and drove out demons. Jesus was ministering to the people. Jesus is the face of God. God ministers to us. Yes, God is the Presence ministering to us. Blessing is a form of ministry. The Hebrew word for blessing is barukh which is related to a Hebrew word for knee. The beautiful symbolism is that our God bends God’s knee toward us in ministry and blessing. We are created in the image and likeness of God. God blesses us so that we can flourish. God ministers to us; we minister to one another. Continue reading