The Power of the Desert

Originally posted on God In All Things:

Jesus-in-the-DesertI wonder what it would be like to get inside Jesus’ head when he was tempted in the desert (Mt 4:1-11; Mk 1:12-13; Lk 4:1-13). Did he recognize right away that he was dealing with a sinister force? How long did he grapple with how to respond—or did he resist temptation as effortlessly as the gospels make it appear?

These questions resound most when I’m facing temptation myself. The tempter finds me when I’m fragile and teetering on insecurities, and says, “This thing you think you’re called to—you’re not good enough for it. Others are much more talented and qualified than you. Forget about this ‘vocation’ you think you have; it won’t do anyone any good in the long run.” He signals with his finger toward the long road before me, and I gaze warily ahead, dreading the challenges to come. Then he points to a safer, smoother road, coaxing me…

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Pope Reaffirms Church Teaching on Evolution; In Other News: Dog Bites Man


God loves good science

God loves good science

The media coverage of the Catholic (both the mainstream media and unfortunately many Catholic outlets) is often superficial if not downright inaccurate. Even more recent than the synod has been the reporting of Pope Francis’ remarks supporting evolution this week to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. Pope Francis made his speech during a ceremony honoring Pope Benedict XVI for continuing to promote the harmony of science and faith. The remarks made by Pope Francis were consistent with statements made by his predecessors and Catholic theologians.

In other words, there was nothing new, but the media reported it as a significant event.  Lazer Berman of The Times of Israel has one of the better articles on the subject. I encourage you to read the entire article here but set forth below is an excerpt:

Francis’s remarks were covered breathlessly in the media, but the coverage has not reflected that they are solidly consistent with previous Church teachings.

* * *

“We run the risk of imagining God was a magician, with a magic wand able to do everything,” he said, arguing against young earth creationism. “But that is not so.”

But Francis emphasized that the world was not created from chaos by chance, but “derives directly from a Supreme Principle who creates out of love.”

“The Big Bang, which nowadays is posited as the origin of the world, does not contradict the divine act of creating, but rather requires it. The evolution of nature does not contrast with the notion of creation, as evolution presupposes the creation of beings that evolve.”

Francis emphasized the potential scientific inquiry holds to discover God and his plan: “Therefore the scientist, and above all the Christian scientist, must adopt the approach of posing questions regarding the future of humanity and of the Earth, and of being free and responsible, helping to prepare it and preserve it, to eliminate risks to the environment of both a natural and human nature. But, at the same time, the scientist must be motivated by the confidence that nature hides, in her evolutionary mechanisms, potentialities for intelligence and freedom to discover and realize, to achieve the development that is in the plan of the creator.”

* * *

Jesuit priest scientist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who was influential in opening Catholic thinking to natural sciences, wrote extensively on the theology of evolution, Staron pointed out, speculating that spiritual development could be as much a part of human evolution as the development of the human mind — in other words, evolution consciously reflecting upon itself, moving the world into union with God.

The official position of the Catholic Church has been very clear, emphasized Murray Watson, cofounder of the Center for Jewish-Catholic-Muslim learning at Ontario’s Western University: Catholicism does not see an inherent contradiction between faith and any of the several leading theories of evolution, as long as those theories can allow room for a number of beliefs. First, that God is the ultimate source of evolution. Second, that God is ultimately guiding the process, even if indirectly through the laws of nature. And finally, that the human soul is God’s direct creation, not a random result of evolution.

“In that sense, all that the Catholic Church asks is that science limit itself to answer questions within its own purview, and not venture into the areas of philosophy and theology,” said Watson. “It isn’t the role of religion to pass judgement on scientific theories, but the Church wants to ensure that scientists don’t — accidentally or otherwise — stray into territory which is beyond the ability of the scientific paradigm to investigate, such as the existence of God, and/or the possibility of God’s having created the cosmos.”

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Pope Francis and Moving to a More Unified and Less Polarized Church

Pope Francis

The Gospel can sometimes be challenging but should always be joyful.

For a variety of reasons, the primary one being the inaccurate hyperbole being written from all quarters, I have avoided discussing the recently concluded Special Synod on the Family. However, John Gehring had a good article in Crux that went beyond the specifics of the Synod to how Pope Francis is trying to move beyond the toxic polarization that is the result of contemporary politics and get back to the heart of the Gospel message of a Church unified in the heart of Christ. I encourage you to read the full article here but set forth below is an excerpt:

“To really understand why this papacy is so revolutionary, you have to recognize that Francis is playing the long game. He is setting his vision on a different horizon than those who are stuck fighting trench warfare over a narrow set of hot-button issues.

While Catholics check off boxes on our ideological scorecards, Pope Francis is calling the Church to a profound spiritual conversion. His foes are clericalism, legalism, and anything that gets in the way of the joy of the Gospel. This is not a flashy corporate re-branding or a mere tinkering with tone. It’s a return to the radical values at the root of Christian faith.

When Francis of Assisi came along in the 12th century, his embrace of poverty, personal holiness, and peacemaking were a walking rebuke to an institutional Church mired in worldly corruption. The Franciscans, and later religious orders like Pope Francis’ own Jesuit order, inspired spiritual movements that still inspire people in ways that the fine print of the Church’s Catechism never will.

The pope’s closing address at the synod offered sober words that should caution against triumphalism on the left or right. Speaking to those he called “traditionalists,” Francis warned of a tendency toward “hostile inflexibility,” and of being “closed” in the letter of the law. Turning his attention to “so-called progressives and liberals,” the pope warned of a “deceptive mercy” that “binds wounds without first curing them and treating them.”

This is not the first time the pope has offered a challenge that cuts across ideologies. When he warns about an “economy of exclusion and inequality,” or questions the “crude and naive” trust some leaders place in “trickle-down” economics, surely Republicans who genuflect at the altar of Ronald Reagan are not getting a free pass. Democrats who cheer the pope for his progressive views on labor and the economy can’t ignore his description of abortion as part of a “throw-away culture.”

For Catholics, our Church should make us all a little uncomfortable. Otherwise, we simply use faith to baptize our own political agendas.”

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Teilhard de Chardin Quote of the Week (October 27, 2014): Human Work in the Glory of God


The Sistine Chapel


“One by one, through human effort aided by God, souls are distilled, precious drops, — and the nectar which comes at the end has not the same savour as that which flowed first. Each has its own exquisite value. In that lies the meaning of human work, of the desperate search to master the secrets and energies (good and bad) of the world: to perfect, to purify, psychic life (individual and collective) so that types of perfection [in God's image] may ultimately be seen. . . “

– Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Making of a Mind; Letters from a Soldier-Priest (p. 180)

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Sunday Reflection, 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time (October 26, 2014): Responding to God’s Love

homelessPhoto Courtesy of 
“Love, and do what you like” — statement attributed to St. Augustine.

This Sunday is the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time. The readings can be found here. The Gospel reading is the Great Commandment, which consists of two parts: loving God and loving neighbor.  As the Gospel clearly indicates, these two parts are inseparable. One cannot love God without loving a neighbor and loving a neighbor without love of God risks devolving into another form of ego gratification: if we give a token amount of money to the homeless, our friends will think better of us or we will alleviate some of our guilt.

This week’s reflection comes from Pope Benedict’s XVI’s first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est (God is Love), which was issued on Christmas Day in 2005. This beautiful encyclical captures the essence of the Christian message. God, the Creator and Source of all things is pure love. If we are to be united with God, we must demonstrate and share that love with others. I encourage you to read the entire encyclical here (lengthy but well well worth the effort) but set forth below is an excerpt:

“‘God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him’. These words from the First Letter of John express with remarkable clarity the heart of the Christian faith: the Christian image of God and the resulting image of mankind and its destiny. In the same verse, Saint John also offers a kind of summary of the Christian life: “We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us”.

We have come to believe in God’s love: in these words the Christian can express the fundamental decision of his life. Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction. Saint John’s Gospel describes that event in these words: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should … have eternal life” (3:16). In acknowledging the centrality of love, Christian faith has retained the core of Israel’s faith, while at the same time giving it new depth and breadth. The pious Jew prayed daily the words of the Book of Deuteronomy which expressed the heart of his existence: “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord, and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your might” (6:4-5). Jesus united into a single precept this commandment of love for God and the commandment of love for neighbour found in the Book of Leviticus: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (19:18; cf. Mk12:29-31). Since God has first loved us (cf. 1 Jn 4:10), love is now no longer a mere “command”; it is the response to the gift of love with which God draws near to us.

In a world where the name of God is sometimes associated with vengeance or even a duty of hatred and violence, this message is both timely and significant. For this reason, I wish in my first Encyclical to speak of the love which God lavishes upon us and which we in turn must share with others. That, in essence, is what the two main parts of this Letter are about, and they are profoundly interconnected. The first part is more speculative, since I wanted here—at the beginning of my Pontificate—to clarify some essential facts concerning the love which God mysteriously and gratuitously offers to man, together with the intrinsic link between that Love and the reality of human love. The second part is more concrete, since it treats the ecclesial exercise of the commandment of love of neighbour.”

* * *

Love of neighbour, grounded in the love of God, is first and foremost a responsibility for each individual member of the faithful, but it is also a responsibility for the entire ecclesial community at every level: from the local community to the particular Church and to the Church universal in its entirety. As a community, the Church must practise love. Love thus needs to be organized if it is to be an ordered service to the community. The awareness of this responsibility has had a constitutive relevance in the Church from the beginning: “All who believed were together and had all things in common; and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need” (Acts 2:44-5). In these words, Saint Luke provides a kind of definition of the Church, whose constitutive elements include fidelity to the “teaching of the Apostles”, “communion” (koinonia), “the breaking of the bread” and “prayer” (cf. Acts 2:42). The element of “communion” (koinonia) is not initially defined, but appears concretely in the verses quoted above: it consists in the fact that believers hold all things in common and that among them, there is no longer any distinction between rich and poor (cf. also Acts 4:32-37). As the Church grew, this radical form of material communion could not in fact be preserved. But its essential core remained: within the community of believers there can never be room for a poverty that denies anyone what is needed for a dignified life.

Read Deus Caritas Est

Other Resources:

Living Space
Creighton Online Ministries
John Predmore Reflection
Fr. Robert Barron Podcast



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The God of Surprises

Originally posted on molma.indigo:

Thinking and working to understand being a co-creator with God I came across this poem on a wonderful site I frequent:

May the God of Surprises delight you, inviting you to accept gifts not yet imagined.
May the God of Transformation call you, opening you to continual renewal.
May the God of Justice confront you, daring you to see the world through God’s eyes.
May the God of Abundance affirm you, nudging you towards deeper trust.
May the God of Embrace hold you, encircling you in the hearth of God’s home.
May the God of Hopefulness bless you, encouraging you with the fruits of faith.
May the God of Welcoming invite you, drawing you nearer to the fullness of God’s expression in you.
May God Who is Present be with you, awakening you to God in all things, all people, and all moments.
May God be with you.

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Teilhard de Chardin Quote of the Week (October 20, 2014): Religion and Mysticism



Due to travel schedule, this week’s quote is not from Teilhard de Chardin but is from another one of my favorite authors, Philip St. Romain in the spirit of Teilhard de Chardin:

“To emphasize the pivotal role of faith in relation to mystical experience is not likely to be a popular position these days, however, for to speak of faith is to invoke religious language. The awakening and formation of faith is also the responsibility of religious traditions, and there are many today who seek mystical experience while holding themselves apart from a religious tradition. Although the God of the mystic does, indeed, go beyond the dogmas and rituals of religions, the intellectual, affective, and volitional dimensions of the faith of the mystic are both nurtured and supported by such beliefs and practices. Indeed, it is doubtful that mystical experience can flower and be integrated apart from the wisdom of religious traditions. (The New Age and Transpersonal mysticisms, for example, generally degenerate into pantheism.) On the other hand, it is easy to understand the disgust with which many today view religion, especially in the West. Apart from a mystical tradition, the exoteric dimension of religion makes little sense, producing instead [mere] ideologies, liturgists and dogmatists. This is not true religious faith, however, only a counterfeit. Many Churches are more aware of political developments in the world than of the mystical aspect of Christianity, which is frustrating to those who seek spiritual growth. The best situation, of course, would be for the Church to view mystical union as the goal of religion itself, and to provide formation for all unto this end. This day is coming, but we’ve a long way to go.

– Philip St. Romain, Critical Questions in Christian Contemplative Practice


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