Teilhard de Chardin Quote of the Week (January 12, 2015): Shadow of Death


[Reflections After a Recent World War I Battle]

“That’s probably why I was more vividly aware of the ‘shadow of death’, and the formidable gift that existence presents us with: an inevitable advance towards an inevitable, sentient end, —a situation from which one can emerge only through physical dissolution … I believe I’ve never felt that to be so real . . . And then I understood a little better the agony of our Lord, on Good Friday. And the remedy seemed clearer to me, always the same: to abandon oneself, with faith and love, to the divine future (the becoming) which is ‘ the most real ‘ of all, ‘the most living’,—whose most terrifying aspect is that of being the most renewing (and hence the most creative, the most precious of all). Yet how difficult it is to fling oneself into the future: inevitably our sensibility sees in it only a dizzy void and restless fluidity: to give it solidity, we must have faith, mustn’t we? Let us pray for one another.”

–– Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Making of a Mind; Letters from a Soldier-Priest (p. 230-31)

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It is GOD Who Converts

joy of nine9

My words alone will not convince an atheist. Yes, Catholics need theology and apologetics, but these disciplines will  not convert  anybody, because Christianity is not primarily a moral theology or a philosophy, but a relationship of love. By focusing upon the reality of  our Christian experiences as they truly are, Christ becomes a living Messiah not only to us, but a visible light to others.

675-a5c77fba-29e2-451d-8672-0592ca4a6af4The contemplative learns about deep trust and complete abandonment to One he knows to be beyond all understanding.  The mystic does not have all the answers; he is not afraid to admit that he does not understand everything and he certainly does not berate or belittle those who are searching. The true mystic  experiences  God as unknowable, not an object nor a thing to be studied.  God cannot be boxed in, defined because He is a mystery. Such  experiential faith  reveals itself in the ground of our being.  This is where dialogue…

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Sunday Reflection, Feast of Baptism of the Lord (January 11, 2015): God’s Bridging the Gap


This weekend is the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. The readings can be found here. This Feast is both the last day of the Christmas season and the First Sunday in Ordinary Time.

The Baptism of Jesus is an interesting conundrum for Biblical scholars and theologians. This event is contained in all four Gospels and even the most skeptical Biblical scholars believe that it is a historical event. This leads to a more perplexing question: Why would the Son of God be baptized by a human, not to mention a strange societal outcast such as John the Baptist? I believe the answer to this question speaks to the kenotic outpouring of God’s love.  God, who is love, wanted to bridge the gap between God and humanity.

Today’s reflection comes from Fr. Andy Alexander, S.J. of Creighton University Online Ministries. You can read the entire reflection here but set forth below is an extended excerpt:

“Jesus does not need John’s baptism of repentance for sin. Jesus chooses this baptism to be one with us. He becomes immersed in our reality. We know a similar meaning to the word “immersed” when we think of being immersed in a book or a project. We give ourselves completely to it. We almost can’t think of anything else. At times, when we are completely immersed, it is as if there is no other reality. Jesus is immersed in the waters of the Jordan, muddied by our sins. By walking into that water, filled with all that was washed off of us, Jesus enacts his acceptance of his identity and mission.

But, I can witness his becoming one with me, in the Nativity and in this Baptism, and not let myself be touched by it. Even when I remember that I have been Baptized into Jesus, I don’t always feel immersed in him. I am so pre-occupied with, so immersed in so many other things, other dramas.

Today can be a day on which we can ask for and receive the gift of a renewed co-immersion, a renewed communion with Jesus. And, today we can feel it. Jesus promised to make his home in us so that we can make our home in him.

Today, if we receive the Eucharist sacramentally – even spiritually – we can say “Amen” and mean so much. We can use these or similar words: “Lord, let my heart be open to your being immersed in me, with such complete love, and let me be more and more immersed in you, with growing gratitude.” We might be able to feel what keeps me separate from the Lord and simply asked to be freed of the barrier, the excuse, the tension, the anger, the judgements, the habits which stand in the way of union and communion with Jesus.

Communion with Jesus and immersion into his mission can re-orient us. We can make our home in him, as he makes his home in us. It can free us and give us a renewed reason to live. It can solve so many difficult dilemmas – struggles I might have about how to behave, to act, to respond. Being with Jesus can really help my heart be more like Jesus’ heart. I might have said that “I am not a patient person,” or “I am rough with other people because I respond with a lot of anger.” In communion and immersion into Jesus, I can feel the freedom that comes from the experience of his love and mercy for me. I can feel drawn into loving and being merciful the way he is.

* * *

Because Jesus is immersed in us, and allows us to be immersed in him, our world can be transformed by the power of this communion. We will hear the cry of the poor, the sick, the sinner, as he does. We can become broken and given for others. We can immerse ourselves in the messy world we are called, by our sharing in his mission, to serve.”

Read Full Reflection

 Other Reflections:

Living Space
John Predmore Reflection

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Agapé Love vs. Conditional Love

“Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.” — 1 John 4:8

The First Reading for today’s Mass is from the First Epistle of St. John and one of the most insightful and beautiful readings in the Bible. It is also very hard for me to live by as I am frequently stuck in a “transactional mentality” of only being nice to those who are nice to me or who can help me. I rarely consider others beyond my small circle but much truly love the stranger or those who do harm to me. 

Today’s reflection from Living Space is a beautiful summary of agapé love and something for me to ponder the remainder of the Christmas Season and into Ordinary Time:

What, then, do we mean by love in our reading today? C S Lewis, the Christian writer, once wrote a book called The Four Loves. There he describes four kinds of love, all of which should be part of Christian living. One of these is agape, the form of love that 1 John is talking about. I would like to offer a definition of agape which may be helpful. It is: “a passionate desire for the well-being of the other”.

This is the love that God unconditionally extends to all his creatures without exception. It is the love that each of us, too, is to extend to every one of our brothers and sisters – again, without a single exception. It is an outreaching love; it is an unconditional love; it does not depend on mood, liking or disliking. It is based purely and simply on the need and on the good of the other. It may or may not be expressed sexually but it is definitely not the love that most of the pop songs are talking about.

No matter what we do, no matter how evil or vicious we are, God’s love for us remains unchanging and unchangeable. “Love it was that made us and Love it was that saved us…” as the hymn says. The reason is simple: ‘God IS love’. Love enters into his very being. God cannot not love – if he did, he would no longer be God.

It is strange to say (and for some it may be shocking) but God loves the most depraved person we could imagine and Our Lady or one of the saints in exactly the same way. He cannot do otherwise. Is there no difference then? The difference between Our lady and the evil person is not in God’s love for them but in their response to the love offered to them. One person has a closed heart; Our Lady from the moment of the Annunciation gave an unconditional ‘Yes’ which she never withdrew.

All our loving then is simply an opening of our heart, a return of the love that God has first shown us. When we reveal ourselves as loving persons it is because God’s love is working in us and through us. The sign that we are loving him is also that we are filled with love ourselves, love which originally came from him.

As someone once said, God’s love is like electricity. God’s love is only in us when it is passing through us. It can never stop with ourselves. When we keep that love to ourselves, it dies.

God’s love is available in abundance to anyone who opens their heart to him. May I be able to do that. But that love, too, must continue to flow out beyond me to everyone I meet. It is impossible to separate God’s love for me and my love for others. We cannot have one without the other.

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See also Deus Caritas Est (God is Love) by Pope Benedict XVI


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Teilhard de Chardin Quote of the Week (January 5, 2015): The Embryonic Idea of the Omega Point

Big Bang Omega Point


“In spite of the continual turmoil I’ve been in for the last month, I can see that various ideas are quietly continuing to work themselves out in my mind,—both about the nature of ‘the human virtues’ and the ‘ human moral ideal ‘, which seems  to be the preserve of the stoics and of those who close their hearts to all personal hopes of heaven,—or about the sort of divineness of the future,—the future that is made up of terrifying inevitability, of no less frightening renewal, and at the same time of benign Providence that can make itself manifest and modify itself in proportion to the intensity of our faith. In this latter group of ideas particularly (the future) there are, I think, many things to be said and discovered, which can help us to reveal to ourselves the deep-seated centre of our emotions and fears, and which have the power, in consequence, of revealing God to us. I’ll tell you about this as my thought takes final shape.”

–– Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Making of a Mind; Letters from a Soldier-Priest (p. 227-28)

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Sunday Reflection on Epiphany (January 4, 2015): A Real Truth That May or May Not Have Been Historical

A powerful truth, which may or may not have been a historical event.

A powerful truth, which may or may not have been a historical event.

[Note: This is a slightly modified version of the reflection I posted last year]

This weekend is the celebration of the Epiphany. The readings can be found here.

The journey of the Magi is one of the most beautiful stories in the Bible.  Mysterious foreigners receive a cosmic sign to leave their home and pay homage to the newborn son of God.  The imagery describes the mystery of the cosmos and the message that Christ has come for all people.  It is a fitting end to the “twelve days of Christmas”. In the Eastern Orthodox Church the Epiphany is a bigger celebration than the Feast of the Nativity on December 25.

A few years ago the American Atheists spent money on a billboard with the tagline “You Know It’s a Myth” with the picture of the wise men traveling to visit the infant Jesus. I found this very odd on a number levels. I believe the point they were trying to make is that if the story of the Magi found in Chapter 2 of Matthew is not a historical event, then it is not “true”. In that sense American Atheists are showing their epistemological kinship with Christian fundamentalists in that both groups believe in biblical literalism.

Catholics believe the Word of God is much richer than the literalists do.  Catholic teaching states that the Bible conveys eternal truths through a variety of literary genres.  These truths can be in the form of describing historical events (such as the Resurrection) or theological reflections (such as many of the parables that Jesus told).

Although the infancy narratives in Matthew and Luke may contain historical elements, these stories are primarily designed to be theological reflections on the meaning of the Incarnation. As preeminent Catholic biblical scholar Raymond Brown says:

“[T]here is no way we can know for certain how historical many details in the infancy narratives are; or where Matthew and Luke obtained their divergent information. In making judgments we should be careful to avoid both naive fundamentalism and destructive skepticism. To take every word of these accounts as literal history does not deal realistically with the problems. Yet the accounts should not be dismissed as mere fiction or myths. Between precise history and purely imaginative creation there is a whole range of ways to convey a religious message.”

Pope Benedict addresses the same issue in his outstanding book Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives.  Pope Benedict, while stating his belief is the substantial historicity of the infancy narratives, emphasizes that the focus on the historicity of the infancy narratives misses the point. Indeed he does not even get to the question of historicity until the end of his beautiful discussion on the theology of the Magi:

At the end of this lengthy chapter, the question arises: how are we to understand all this? Are we dealing with history that actually took place, or is it . . . a theological meditation, presented under the guise of stories? In this regard, Jean Daniélou rightly observes: “The adoration of the Magi, unlike the story of the annunciation [to Mary], does not touch upon any essential aspect of our faith. No foundations would be shaken if it were simply an invention of Matthew’s based on a theological idea” (The Infancy Narratives, p. 95).

Pope Benedict XVI (2012-11-21). Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives (p. 118). The Doubleday Religious Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Pope Benedict describes the primary message of the Magi in powerfully cosmic terms that echo the thoughts of Teilhard de Chardin:

“If these wise men, led by the star to search for the king of the Jews, represent the movement of the Gentiles toward Christ, this implies that the cosmos speaks of Christ, even though its language is not yet fully intelligible to man in his present state. The language of creation provides a great many pointers. It gives man an intuition of the Creator. Moreover, it arouses the expectation, indeed the hope, that this God will one day reveal himself. And at the same time it elicits an awareness that man can and should approach him. But the knowledge that emerges from creation, and acquires concrete form in the religions, can also become disoriented, so that it no longer prompts man to transcend himself, but induces him to lock himself into systems with which he believes he can, in some way, oppose the hidden powers of the world.”

Pope Benedict XVI (2012-11-21). Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives (Kindle Locations 1165-1170). The Doubleday Religious Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

This theme of Pope Benedict is expanded upon by the Lutheran minister Rev. Dawn Hutchings of Holy Cross Lutheran Church north of Toronto Canada.  I encourage you to read the full homily here but set forth below is an extended excerpt:

“This wonderful tale of three astrologers scouring the heavens for signs of new happenings on the planet captures the imagination of every generation. You see, we humans are meaning-making creatures eternally searching for the Mystery at the heart of the universe that dignifies and enchants our lives. Human beings just can’t help trying to understanding the meaning of it all. We are constantly trying to understand the how and the why of existence.

But alas the indignity of our modern times lies precisely in our being told that the cosmos—this universe in which we live and move and have our being—is essentially purposeless, without meaning or direction.

There’s this thing that some people call Scientism afoot that threatens our ability to see beyond our noses. Scientism is the religion of those scientists who refuse to concede that the phrase, “I don’t know” is sometimes the only answer that we have. Scientism is science that slips into an ideology of materialism—an ideology of materialism is the idea that every thing and every body is nothing more than the random collision of atoms and molecules. Scientism is the assertion that we and the universe are nothing more than  a cosmic fluke of enormous proportions going nowhere in particular. According to the dictates of scientism: any meaning that we might attribute to our existence is therefore just that—our own arbitrarily generated attributions of purpose to a journey to what is at the end of the day nothing more than the purposeless march of time. Unlike science, that provides for the possibility of a creator, scientism would have us believe, that there is no meaning behind our existence, we simply randomly evolved and we will someday randomly devolve, or dissolve into a pile of dust. 

That’s why I love the parable of the magi’s visit! For these ancient astrologers had their own ways of determining meaning,“the heavens are telling the glory of God, and the earth proclaims God’s handiwork”. A new star appears in the heavens and for those with enchanted hearts, it means that God is on the move—something new is about to happen.  So they chased down the star, to see this thing that God had done.

Unlike our ancestors, we live in a culture in desperate need of enchantment and awe. We are so meaning-starved as citizens of the Western world in the 21st century that we chase after almost any kind of novel spiritual movement. The pendulum swings from scientific materialism to the latest cult so starved are we for spiritual re-enchantment. In our state of spiritual hunger we’ll accept any morsel from the smorgasbord of new age spirituality.

* * *  

The sages of our age, the astronomers who seek meaning from the skies are not all so quick to subscribe to the big bang theory of randomness. For they have seen great things in the sky and there are many among this wise folks who insist that the cosmos is infused with meaning and purpose—Indeed, they tell us that  stars and the planetary bodies participate in this journey of cosmic meaning.

Those sages who are engaged in scientific study are not all followers of scientism. The notion of a creator, a first cause, or a driving force, dare we say God, as the power that drives all of existence is seriously explored by the wise folks of academia and science has refused to exclude the possibility. And yet there is the illusion afoot that the followers of science find faith incompatible with the pursuit of meaning. When the truth is that scientism seems to be the choice of those who have given up or forsaken the pursuit of meaning. Science itself would seem to deny scientism!

More and more, scientists, are beginning to speak out and more and more academics are joining the chorus of those who insist that there is indeed a power at work in the large-scale structures of the universe, in the evolutionary unfolding of the planet, and in our own personal and collective lives. To pursue knowledge is to continue the journey of the magi who pursued light, the timeless symbol of knowledge. To follow the light, to go where wisdom and knowledge lead, is to seek the answer to the age old questions: Where do we come from and where are we going?  Why are we here?. You don’t need to be a scientist or an academic to ponder the secrets of existence. Like the magi, we too can seek the light. Just as the magi gazed up at the light in the heavens and followed it to the place where it lead—and found the Christ-child—we too can follow the light in our own lives.

* * * 

The theory of allurement isn’t confined to astronomy, it dips into to theology and from the priest come palaeontologist, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, it borrows the notion of the Omega Point. The Omega Point is the completion and perfection of all creation to which we are being drawn, no-coercively, gently, and in a way that respects our freedom.

How do we find our way to the Omega Point?  Well that’s the real beauty of this theory, you see it’s described as a completely natural process that kicks in the moment we decide to trust this Power—this power that goes by many names, you and I are bold enough to call this power God, some call it Wisdom, but there are other names.

The point of the Omega Point, is that all we must do is to follow the way of the Magi and look for the light. Physicists call this quest for the light, “attending to our allurement”. The dynamic of allurement is a powerful force in the psychological make-up of the human being.

* * * 

Christ is the ever-present light of our lives, beckoning from the many stars that allure us, calling us toward our own divine image and inspiring us to give our lives as an offering so that all of creation may continue to evolve. Evolution is not random; each of us has a unique role to play. But let’s not be naïve. Each of us possesses an inner Herod who doesn’t like that we’re paying homage to any king other than our self. The story of the Magi got this detail exactly correct. Something within us resists God—call it ego if you will—but there is something within us that thinks that it alone deserves gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. It does not want to worship or pay homage; it wants to be on the receiving end of both and will go to great lengths to make it happen. It wants to know where the light is leading, not to submit to it, not to give thanks, not to sing praise and be in awe, but rather to scope out it’s rival, in a vain attempt to outshine it, or even destroy it.

Herod is also found in our families, and in our social, political, economic and religious systems. Herod is present as the power of domination. Herod hates the fascination of others unless it is directed toward him. Herod—within and without—refuses to serve any higher power; Herod refuses to fit in, to take his place in grace. Herod will try to rule the show.


Pastor Hutchings Homily
Rev. Robert Barron Reflections on Epiphany
Rev. Raymond Brown, The Christmas Stories: Exploring the Gospel Infancy Narratives

Pope Benedict, Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives

Raymond Brown, The Birth of the Messiah: A Commentary on The Infancy Narratives in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke

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Theology of Coffee

This blogpost is something I can definitely relate to as coffee is integral to my morning prayer 🙂

Morning Coffee

God In All Things

This is a guest post by Jacqueline Shrader.

starbucks red cupWhen I was still a youngster in high school, my gaggle of gal pals and I loved to bring each other Starbucks in the morning. Nothing was better than the sugary winter drink of a white chocolate mocha, under the guise as a coffee. Nothing made me feel better than my cup of ‘joe’ in hand, flaunting the red holiday cups and demonstrating my maturity as a coffee drinker. A few years passed, and I moved to Seattle to go to college. There, I soon became acquainted with real coffee. My flirting with real coffee quickly escalated into a full on relationship. I tried to learn more about the history, the roasting styles, the economics, and growing patterns—even going so far as to spend a summer in Costa Rica volunteering on a farm that grew coffee. Now, in my post-grad life, I…

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Evolutionary Christianity


Last night as I was thinking of a way to succinctly describe Teilhard de Chardin’s views on evolutionary theology.  Lo and behold, through the magic of the Internet portion of the evolving Noosphere, I was fortunate to come across the website David G. Brenner. Dr. Brenner is a Canadian psychologist, professor and author with an interest in the role of spirituality in clinical practice, including the fields of psychological health, spiritual wellness and pastoral care. Dr. Brenner wrote a recent blog article that very eloquently wrote of Teilhard’s vision in a manner much better than I could. I encourage you to read Dr. Brenner’s entire article here but set forth below is an excerpt:

“Recently someone wrote me and said that since my last couple of books were full of talk of becoming and unfolding, he was beginning to sense a lurking presence of evolutionary theology. Apparently he thought this was a bad thing.

My interest in the natural sciences predated my interest in the human ones, although both interests have seamlessly intermingled since my undergraduate years at university. At age fourteen I won a provincial public speaking contest with a talk on evolution so it should not be any surprise to say that I have long been strongly influenced by evolutionary thought. However, it is not the details of evolution that are of primary interest to me. That I happily leave to biologists. My interest is in the meaning and significance of the fact that the universe and everything within it is constantly evolving. To fail to notice this unfolding tendency is simply to fail to be fully in touch with reality.

* * *

My approach to understanding the theological and spiritual implications of evolution draws on the work of the Jesuit palaeontologist and cosmologist, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. He viewed evolution as a divine strategy for birthing and growing a world under the non-interfering, yet persuasive influence of the mystery many of us call God. He described evolution as the movement toward increasing wholeness. It is the process of the complexification of energy that results in a rise of consciousness – this eventually expressing itself in awareness. It is the growing of smaller wholes into larger wholes. It is a cosmic journey of becoming. And, from a monotheistic religious point of view, all of this happens under the dynamic impulse of God’s creative power and love – God being at the heart of the evolutionary process, empowering it from within.

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Dreaming of a New Humanity in a New Year

Beautiful reflection as we get closer to 2015.

Father Bob's Reflections

St. Augustine, Florida at Christmastime.

Dear friends,

When we were preparing for Y2K fifteen years ago, I dreamed about “A New Humanity for a New Millennium.”

And I wrote some really positive stuff about us humans, knowing full well we really didn’t warrant it.

Can we dust those thoughts now as we come up to the center of the second decade of the third millennium and give them a second thought, a second shot . . . ?

. . . . Even though we have failed to live up to the potential of the human family, we nevertheless are called to a deeper faith and hope.  The work of Jesus is hardly begun.  The task of building a new humanity, partially begun in the first and second millennia, remains the agenda for the third.

As we reach beyond our self-imposed limits of sight, we can look beyond ~ look…

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Teilhard de Chardin Quote of the Week (December 29, 2014): Christian Love


For the last couple of days, I’ve given some thought to what you said about how Christianity must not to allow itself to be eclipsed by certain human virtues but must assimilate them (since they, too, are equally incapable of flourishing without implicitly basing themselves on Christ). . . There is a danger that belief in God may (by a distortion, of course, but the danger is still there, in fact) make us lazy, preoccupied with our own ‘ petty salvation ‘, charitable only as a matter of form . . . —The remedy, I believe, for this slackening of the Christian effort, is always the same: to understand that God is obtained by carrying through our task as men,—that Providence in no way dispenses us from effort,—that our neighbour must be loved in himself through love of God.—When I try to analyse myself, it seems to me that my own individual hopes of a heavenly reward do not prevent me from devoting myself to this world’s tasks with the same feelings of conviction, and ardour, and renunciation that I would try to have—that I imagine I would have—if I had no faith.—But I owe this to the particular view I’ve arrived at of the relations between the fulfillment of this world and the kingdom of God . . .

–– Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Making of a Mind; Letters from a Soldier-Priest (p. 223-24)

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