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False Choices & Religious Liberty

Is There a Better Way Forward?

By John Gehring,  June 21, 2016 in Commonweal

https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/false-choices-religious-liberty

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops launches its annual Fortnight for Freedom campaign this week. A recent video from the conference illustrates how unhinged the debates over religious liberty have become. Pairing images of Islamic State militants ready to behead Christian prisoners with ominous warnings of the Obama administration’s harassment of religious ministries epitomizes how the hierarchy risks making itself its own worst enemy on the issue. (For more, see the recent Commonweal editorial, “Lights, Camera, Contraception?”) Even many faithful Catholics who should be most sympathetic to the church’s arguments have grown weary of the divisiveness and worry that the all-consuming quality of the religious-liberty battle now seems to define American Catholicism. At the same time, the perversion of religious liberty into a bludgeon against women’s health, workers’ rights, and LGBT equality has caused some progressives to forget that religious freedom is a fundamentally liberal value. Finding a better approach that rescues religious liberty from the culture wars is challenging, essential work.

It’s fair to say religious liberty has a damaged “brand” these days. Catholic institutions have played a role in that diminishment. Lesbian and gay teachers across the country have been fired from Catholic schools after their civil marriages have become public. Several Catholic universities are using religious liberty claims to block adjunct professors making poverty-level wages from forming unions, a move dripping with hypocrisy given centuries of Catholic social teaching defending the rights of workers and living wages. Catholic leaders have spent years and millions of dollars in legal fees fighting for more religious exemptions in contraception coverage requirements under the Affordable Care Act, despite the fact that years before health-care reform was passed some Catholic institutions, with little furor, already offered their employees insurance coverage that included birth control coverage.

The nation’s largest church needs to lower the temperature and elevate the conversation. In his visit to the White House last September, Pope Francis affirmed that religious liberty is “one of America’s most precious possessions.” American Catholics, he added, are equally “committed to building a society which is truly tolerant and inclusive, to safeguarding the rights of individuals and communities, and to rejecting every form of unjust discrimination.” To state what should be painfully obvious, Catholics are not living in an era of despotism or facing tyrannical assaults, as some church leaders have claimed. American Muslims, in fact, have the most legitimate reasons to fear for their religious freedom. When mosques are burned, Islamophobia is a well-funded industry, and the Republican presidential nominee has proposed a ban on Muslims entering the country, Catholics must speak boldly and act with more urgency to demonstrate our solidarity with a religious minority under siege. Continue reading “False Choices & Religious Liberty”

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What Makes You Feel Loved?

I’VE BEEN THINKING

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been mesmerized by love stories.

Love stories in books. (Hello, “Wuthering Heights.”) Love stories on the big screen. (“The Sound of Music,” “Notting Hill,” “Love Actually”… I won’t tell you how many times I’ve watched these films again and again.) Love stories in the news. (I read the New York Times’ Modern Love column religiously each Sunday.)

Yes, I love love stories. I’ve even been known to burst into tears when an elderly couple tells me their love story. Stories like these inspire me. They give me hope. They bring me joy.

Many years ago, a friend asked me, “Maria, what makes you feel loved?”

The question stopped me cold in my tracks.

I was quiet for a bit because the truth was, I wasn’t entirely sure how to answer the question. But today, I know exactly what makes me feel loved.

I feel loved when I feel seen. I feel loved when I feel heard. I feel loved when I feel safe, secure and understood. I feel loved when my children hug me or take a walk with me. I feel loved when I arrive to lunch with a friend and see that they’ve ordered me something that they know I like.

Over the years, I’ve learned that love isn’t just the stuff of movies or novels. It’s the day-to-day stuff that you don’t hear about often enough.

Love is someone putting a blanket over you. Love is someone calling you simply to say hi. Love is someone taking you to the doctor and patiently waiting by your side. Love is someone stopping to listen to you. (I mean, really listen to you.) Love is when someone gives you their time and speaks to you in a loving and kind way.

I’ve also learned what love isn’t. Love isn’t degrading or belittling. It’s not shameful of confusing. Someone doesn’t get to say “I love you” after degrading you or abusing you. (If you need a reminder of that, read Rob Porter’s ex-wife Jennie Willoughby’s powerful essay.) They also don’t get to only tell you “I love you” after you get an “A” on a test or win first place in a competition.

Love isn’t conditional. It’s healing. It’s nurturing. It’s empowering. And the good news is, we can all show it to one another in the here and now.

So on this weekend leading up to Valentine’s Day, I hope you are able to reflect on all the love in your life. I hope you are also able to take the time to reflect on the love being given to you, and on the love that you have to give to those around you.

We all need to feel love, especially in these turbulent and changing times. I mean, look at us. People all around us are fighting and struggling. They are struggling financially, emotionally, spiritually, and, yes, physically. They feel lonely, anxious, scared, confused, and misunderstood.

Empathy and love are the cure for these feelings. That’s why it behooves us all to take a step back and check our empathy quotient. Each of us can step back and ask ourselves, “Are we leading from a place of love, empathy and understanding?”

Are you doing your best to show love to yourself and others? Are you doing your best to cultivate compassion and empathy in your children? Are you doing your best to show love to those you work with and interact with on a daily basis? These are questions we can each ask ourselves every day.

As I watched several news stories unfold this week, I was struck once again by the fact that none of us truly know what is going on in the life of another human being. We make judgments all the time about people, about couples, about strangers. And yet, we know nothing.

What I do know for sure is that we all need love. We all crave that feeling. And yet, we don’t always know when someone is really in need of it most.

We never know what someone is going through or what they are feeling at any given moment. That’s why the best way to approach every person or situation in our lives is with love.

Love is a gift. In fact, it’s the best gift that each of us can give to one another. That’s not just true on Valentine’s Day. It’s true each and every day.

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Fulfilling the song of the angels

Sri Lanka mangers

By Bishop Thomas Gumbleton

Now we’ll reflect for a few moments on these sacred Scriptures and this great mystery that we celebrate this evening. I’m sure many of you remember that there are, in fact, three separate sets of readings for Christmas because we can celebrate a Mass at midnight as we’re doing here, then we have what we call the Shepherd’s Mass early in the morning, and then the Mass during the day. Each of these liturgies have three separate readings so that we try to get the full scope of the mystery that we celebrate when God breaks into human history, God’s Son becomes one of us, a part of our human family.

One of the things that we want to know is why. Why does this love of God, why is it so overwhelming, that God takes this initiative to enter into our human history? Well, the Mass for the day, the second reading is taken from the letter to the Hebrews. I think that this explains as well as anything why God sent Jesus to be one of us. In that letter to the Hebrews, the writer starts off, “God has spoken in the past to our ancestors through the prophets in many different ways, although never completely. But in our times God has spoken definitively to us through his son, Jesus.”

What that says to us is that Jesus came to be a message, to be the very Word of God in our midst. In fact, if you go to the beginning of the Gospel of St. John, you find written, “In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him nothing came to be. Whatever has come to be found life in him.” And the Word, God’s Word, was made flesh, became part of our human family to speak to us about God, to show us who God is, to show us how we, when share in this life of God given to us through Jesus, must try to live ourselves.

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via Fulfilling the song of the angels | National Catholic Reporter

Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation-Summary: Sunday, December 17-Friday, December 22, 2017

An image of a reddish yellow wall with long dried vines crawling up it.

Heaven

Summary: Sunday, December 17-Friday, December 22, 2017

The goal must be kept simple and clear—love of God and neighbor, union with God and neighbor. Our common word for this state of union is heaven. (Sunday)

Heaven is first of all now and therefore surely later. If God loves and accepts us now in our broken state, why would the divine policy change after our death? (Monday)

Once we know there is an original implanted and positive direction to our existence, we can trust the primary flow (faith); eventually we will learn to calmly rest there (hope); and we can actually become a conduit (love). (Tuesday)

Experiences of the Real here on earth are the pledge, guarantee, hint, and promise of an eternal something. Once we touch upon the Real, there is an inner insistence that the Real, if it is the Real, has to be forever. (Wednesday)

If you are already at home in love, you will easily and quickly go to the home of love, which is what we mean by heaven. (Thursday)

“Heaven is not a place of eternal rest or a long sleep-in, but a life of creativity and newness in love; one with God in the transformation of all things.” —Ilia Delio (Friday)

Practice: Praying Always

Prayer is not a transaction that somehow pleases God but a transformation of the consciousness of the one doing the praying. Prayer is the awakening of an inner dialogue that, from God’s side, has never ceased. This is why Paul could write of praying “always” (see 1 Thessalonians 5:17). Prayer is not changing God’s mind about us or about anything else, but allowing God to change our mind about the reality right in front of us (which we usually avoid or distort).

When we put on a different mind, heaven takes care of itself. In fact, it begins now. If we resort too exclusively to verbal, wordy prayers, we’ll remain stuck in our rational, dualistic minds and will not experience deep change at the level of consciousness. Prayer is sitting in the silence until it silences us, choosing gratitude until we are grateful, and praising God until we ourselves are an act of praise.

Jesus tells his disciples, “Be awake. Be alert. You do not know when the Lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, at midnight, at cock crow, or in the morning” (Mark 13:33-35). Jesus is not threatening, “You’d better do it right, or I’m going to get you.” He’s talking about the forever, eternal coming of Christ now . . . and now . . . and now. God’s judgment is always redemption. Christ is always coming. God is always present. It’s we who fall asleep.

Be ready. Be present to God in the here and now, the ordinary, the interruptions. Being fully present to the soul of all things will allow you to say, “This is good. This is enough. In fact, this is all I need.” You are now situated in the One Loving Gaze that unites all things in universal attraction and appreciation. We are practicing for heaven. Why wait for heaven when you can enjoy the Divine Flow in every moment, in everyone?

Gateway to Silence:
Going home to Love

Reference:

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Just This (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2017), 16, 18, 37-38.

We must bring back the full religious meaning of Christmas- Bishop Gumbleton

 By Bishop Thomas Gumbleton December 21, 2017

In our second lesson today, St. Paul urges us to rejoice, to be full of joy. The reason he was exhorting them in this way was because he was urging them to have a deeper awareness that the Lord is nigh; Jesus is near. This is what we’ve been celebrating throughout Advent: the coming of Jesus into our midst through commemoration of his birth over 2,000 years ago, through reaching out to Jesus as he lives in others, and finding Jesus, especially in the poor and those with suffering and pain of various kinds, and also to find Jesus in the quiet of our own heart.

At the same time I feel a sense of sadness, even though I, like you of course, are confident that Jesus is coming to us in all of these ways. This is what the Feast of Christmas is about. But this past week I read an article about research being done on the celebration of Christmas in our country. I think all of us have realized over a period of time that our celebration of Christmas gets further and further from the religious aspects of this holiday, as we call it, but feast day also in the church.

The results of this scientific study show us that while a vast majority of Americans still celebrate Christmas, most find the religious elements of the holiday are emphasized less than in the past. Here’s what is hard to accept — few of them care about that change. More than a majority of people in our country don’t consider Christmas from its religious aspects. It’s a holiday; it’s a time to celebrate; it’s a time to give gifts. It’s a commercialization of something that for a long time, for hundreds of years, was a sacred feast. We’ve been losing that.

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We must bring back the full religious meaning of Christmas | National Catholic Reporter

What I’m Hoping To Do More Of This Holiday Season-Maria Shriver

I’VE BEEN THINKING

This week, I’ve been thinking, feeling, watching, listening, and taking stock of my life. It’s been hard not to do this, as I’ve spent time unpacking all of the items that I packed up while preparing to evacuate from the wildfires.

I’ve been taking stock not just of the “stuff” in my life, but of what’s really important to me these days. On Monday, I sat down with my friend Dan Buettner, a National Geographic Fellow, who has devoted his life to studying the places on earth where people are healthiest and happiest. Our conversation really got me thinking deeper about what I value and whether I’m really leading a life where my values line up with my actions. (You can watch our conversation below.)

The news of this week also got me feeling and thinking about my values, and about what we value as a country. On Wednesday, I felt joyful when I heard about the large turnout of voters in Alabama, and about the powerful impact that black voters had, in particular. The people are awake! What a powerful reminder that a vote can disrupt the status quo. It’s also a reminder that the people have a voice, and that they want to be heard. As Kaushana Cauley wrote in the NY Times this week, if the Democrats want to win more elections like this one, then “they have to integrate black voters into the heart and soul of the party.”

Speaking of status quo, on Thursday I was saddened to think about how we haven’t been able to disrupt the status quo when it comes to gun violence in this country. As we observed the 5-year anniversary of Sandy Hook, I thought about the grief those families still deal with on a daily (if not hourly) basis. It must be so overwhelming. Then, for them to see us as a nation still deadlocked when it comes to sensible gun reform…it just breaks my heart and enrages me all at the same time. I also thought this week about the parents of Sandy Hook who took this tragedy and used it as a call to action to try and do something to stop this senseless violence. Mothers like Nicole Hockley, Alissa Parker and Scarlett Lewis, all whose voices we’ve shared in The Sunday Paper with you before. Their strength and determination give me hope for the future.

On any given day or week, joy, grief, sadness, anger, and reflection can all go hand in hand. Such is life, I tell my children. I counsel them to understand that they must be adept at these emotions if they expect to live a full life and/or get anything done in life.

This is also is one of the reasons that every year during the holiday season, I make it one of my traditions to sit down with my kids and our friend, pastor Chad Veach, to connect and take stock. I’ll be speaking with him again on Monday, and will share our conversation with you in next week’s Sunday Paper.

We all need to take stock of our lives, our priorities, our goals, our dreams, and of who and what we value. As we enter this season, it’s a way for us to connect and, I hope, focus on what’s important to one another.

It’s also a chance for us to listen. It’s a chance for us to hear, in a safe environment, about the struggles, the triumphs, the anger, the joy, and the grief that we may be feeling. It’s a moment for us to talk about what’s working and what’s not, and about how we might each connect better to one another.

This is what I’m hoping all of us might be able to think about doing over this holiday season. How might we do a better job connecting to one another? How might we all pull up a chair, like Joe Biden did this week when Megan McCain was overcome with emotion regarding her father? Joe Biden pulled up a chair and he connected. He moved in with compassion and strength. What a powerful move it was.

So, as we move into the holidays and into a new year, I’m going to be thinking about where I can use my voice to upend the status quo. I’m going to be thinking about when and where I can pull up a chair. I’m going to be thinking about where I can move in to listen, to comfort, and to connect with another.

At the end of the day, these are the moves that Move Humanity Forward.

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INCARNATING THE UNIVERSE: MATTER MATTERS TO GOD-Ilia Delio

 

December 7, 2017 by Ilia Delio

In this blog Ilia Delio expands on Diarmuid O’Murchu’s recent Omega Center contributions on incarnation, and offers her thoughts on the “hidden depth to matter.” (See also Diarmuid O’Murchu’s blog on INCARNATION AS EMBODIMENT OF SPIRIT, and audio interview EXPANDING OUR VIEW OF INCARNATION.)

Gazing at the moon

Diarmuid O’Murchu has written a very accessible book on incarnation and evolution that awakens us to the vitality of change and newness (Incarnation: A New Evolutionary Threshold). Each chapter begins with an inspirational quote that encapsulates the main ideas of the chapter.  I was struck by a quote at the beginning of Chapter Five that states:  “The trouble with some of us is that we have been inoculated with small doses of Christianity which keep us from catching the real thing.”  What is the “real thing” of Christianity?  Diarmuid has said time and again that Christianity is not a static, fixed, disembodied religion. Evolution releases Christianity from the grip of Greek metaphysics.  The Christian position overturns the Greek ideal:  God is not opposed to matter because God has entered into matter.  We still cannot get our heads around the fact that matter matters to God, which means the body matters to God, sex matters to God, body-piercing matters to God, transgendering matters to God—essentially—anything we do to matter matters to God.  This is the core of the doctrine of the Incarnation in which God and material reality are fully united without change, division, separation, or confusion.  The doctrine, formulated at Chalcedon in 451 AD, was an astute way of saying that God does not become matter (pantheism) but God is united with matter (panentheism). God is one with matter so that matter is more than mere materiality; matter bears the depth and breadth of God within it without absorbing God or collapsing God into it.  In fact, it is precisely because God is a personally communicative God [which we name as Trinity] that God can become something other than God.  This is the paradoxical mystery of the incarnation and if you try to figure it out logically you will fail miserably.  One must stand within the tension of the paradox by being at home in the mystery.  And by this I mean that one must simply stand still for a moment and gaze on the rich variety of life in wonder and awe.  There is a hidden depth to matter, an elusive breadth undergirding the material world which we call spirit.  Spirit, Diarmuid tells, is another name for evolution; it is the energy of newness and openness that empowers the material world to move forward in oneness, truth, and beauty.  This spirit-breathing-life is God’s presence in matter.


…one must simply stand still for a moment and gaze on the rich variety of life in wonder and awe.


Teilhard de Chardin once asked:  “Who will give evolution its own God?” We have yet to fully address this question because we dread giving up our static, fixed God.  But Diarmuid enters into this question.  God is spirit and God’s spirit is breathing new life in and through matter.  While this may not sit well with atheists or strict materialists we must face the fact that science can tell us a lot of things about carbon bonds or quarks and energy but it cannot tell us why nature bears an openness to change.  There is no adequate scientific reason to explain novelty in nature.  Nature is entangled in mystery and the more scientists try to unravel the mystery the deeper they find themselves in mystery.  For the nature of nature is not another nature but something other than nature, which we name as God.   God, at the heart of nature, is the dynamic impulse of evolution.

Alfred Whitehead once noted that if God is creator and creation is evolution, then God cannot be an exception to evolution’s principles but must be its chief exemplar.  Hence if evolution is marked by openness, change, novelty, and becoming then so too is God.  Our God is an open God, a changing God, a novel God, a God who is becoming in and through cosmic life. This is the core meaning of incarnation; it is the story of Christmas. And, I think, this is what Diarmuid is getting at.  We cannot stay in an anxiety-ridden, fear-driven world; we are material beings and in and through us God is doing new things.


…in and through us God is doing new things.


We cannot know this mystery of Christ as a doctrine or an idea; it is the root reality of all existence.  Hence we must travel inward, into the interior depth of the soul where the field of divine love is expressed in the “thisness” of our own, particular lives. Each of us is a little word of the Word of God, a mini-incarnation of divine love.  The journey inward requires surrender to this mystery in our lives and this means letting go of our control buttons.  It means dying to the untethered selves that occupy us daily; it means embracing the sufferings of our lives, from the little sufferings to the big ones, it means allowing God’s grace to heal us, hold us, and empower us for life.  It means entering into darkness, the unknowns of our lives, and learning to trust the darkness, for the tenderness of divine love is already there.   It means being willing to sacrifice all that we have for all that we can become in the power of God’s love; and finally it means to let God’s love heal us of the opposing tensions within us.  No one can see God and live and thus we must surrender our partial lives to become whole in the love of God.  When we can say with full voice, “you are the God of my heart, my God and my portion forever” then we can open our eyes to see that the Christ in me is the Christ in you.  We are indeed One in love.

 


Ilia DelioIlia Delio, OSF is a Franciscan Sister of Washington, DC and American theologian specializing in the area of science and religion, with interests in evolution, physics and neuroscience and the import of these for theology. and the inspiration behind the Omega Center website. Please see our page dedicated to sharing Ilia’s background and expansive volume of work HERE.

Second Sunday of Advent-December 10, 2017

Sacred Advent

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 10

Second Sunday of Advent

The Presence of God

“Come to me, all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Here I am, Lord. I come to seek your presence. I long for your healing power.

Freedom

“In these days, God taught me as a schoolteacher teaches a pupil” (Saint Ignatius).
I remind myself that there are things God has to teach me yet, and I ask for the grace to hear those things and let them change me.

Consciousness

Help me, Lord, to be more conscious of your presence. Teach me to recognize your presence in others. Fill my heart with gratitude for the times your love has been shown to me through the care of others.

The Word

God speaks to each of us individually. I listen attentively, to hear what he is saying to me. Read the text a few times; then listen.

Mark 1:1–8 
The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

As it is written by the prophet Isaiah,

“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.’”

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

  • Imagine yourself witnessing this scene, perhaps standing in the shallows with the water flowing around your ankles. Allow the scene to unfold. What is it like? The young man from Nazareth joins those waiting for John’s baptism: a symbol of purification but also of birth—coming up out of the waters of the womb into a new life as God’s beloved child.
  • Lord, when I realize that you love me, it is like the start of a new life. As I hear your voice, I know that I have a purpose and a destiny.

Conversation

Conversation requires talking and listening. As I talk to Jesus, may I also learn to be still and listen. I picture the gentleness in his eyes and the smile full of love as he gazes on me. I can be totally honest with Jesus as I tell him of my worries and my cares. I will open my heart to him as I tell him of my fears and my doubts. I will ask him to help me place myself fully in his care and to abandon myself to him, knowing that he always wants what is best for me.

Conclusion

I thank God for these moments we have spent together and for any insights I have been given concerning the text.

Nothing Like A Wildfire To Get Your Priorities In Check-Maria Shriver

I’VE BEEN THINKING

What a week it has been.

Wednesday, I awoke to the smell of smoke inside my home. I rushed to my back door and found that smoke filled the air outside as well. Immediately, I knew something was wrong.

I turned on the news and saw that wildfires were raging out of control just a few miles from my home. I watched in disbelief as firefighters battled brush and winds on the hillside along our big freeway, which was engulfed in flames.

It looked like a scene out of a movie, but this was real life. And, it was unfolding in real time.

My daughters called to see if I was okay. One asked me, “What’s happening?” I told them it would be fine, but then a friend called and told me she was evacuating. With urgency in her voice, she told me to grab some stuff and get out now.

I could feel my kids’ anxiety about the situation. I could feel my friend’s anxiety. But still, I didn’t think I needed to move just yet.

Then, I found out that my neighborhood and my street were being told to prepare to evacuate. (I learned this via an email that was forwarded to me, not a text message, phone call or more immediate form of communication. I think this system of alerting people needs to be modernized.)

Prepare. Prepare to evacuate at a moment’s notice, the email said. Gather up what you need. Medicine. Pets. Important papers. Precious belongings. You must be ready at a moment’s notice to leave.

Immediately, I found myself in the midst of making split-second decisions about what mattered to me and to my kids, and what didn’t. (I’m not a quick decision maker, but in this instance, I surprised myself.)

My heart beat fast as I grabbed the notes and cards my kids had written to me, which luckily I keep in a bag next to my bed. I grabbed their school drawings off the wall and threw them in my car. I grabbed something from each of my parents. I grabbed some other family photos and a few other items from people I love. Interestingly, I didn’t grab a single bag or piece of clothing, although my daughter did grab one purse that my mother had given me. In that moment, when it felt like I had everything to lose, nothing else mattered.

I know it shouldn’t take a wildfire to remind me how unimportant “stuff” is. It shouldn’t take a wildfire to remind me how important friends and family are, or how deeply I love my kids and how proud I am of them. But, in these moments, you really are reminded of what really matters.

My daughters were amazing, calm, helpful, and generous during these uncertain moments. (Both of my boys were out of town.) I was proud of them. Proud to see what they grabbed for themselves and for me. Proud that they were so concerned about so many others. (They even called to ask their brothers and dad what items they should grab that meant something to them.) They were also especially focused on all of the animals in harm’s way.

So many people have lost everything in these fires. So many others in America lost so much in the hurricanes earlier this year. So many people have lost everything they own this year. Everything they worked their whole lives for. In a moment, they lost it all.

In a moment, everything can be gone. Everything can change. We’re reminded of this all the time on the news. We see it all around us every day. A moment can make all the difference.

This all got me thinking. Do you know what you would grab if you were told you had just a moment? Do you know what you would say if you had just a moment to say it? Do you know who you would call? Do you have someone in your circle who will check on you and be there for you?

This fire just reaffirmed for me what I already knew. What I value are the personal notes my kids have given me over the years. I value the heartfelt gifts that have been given to me by those I love. I value what’s personal. I didn’t grab the Emmys. I didn’t grab my clothes. I didn’t grab the things I dreamt of when I was in my 20s. I grabbed the things with meaning. I grabbed what represented my family, love, and hope.

Thankfully, my house was spared from the fire and everything there remains safe. I am grateful because I know others weren’t as lucky. As I sit writing this, I’m thinking of all of the firefighters still out there fighting on the frontlines. There really are no words to express my admiration and gratitude. As I sit listening to the news about my fellow Californians—families whose homes have burned to the ground—I am in awe of their resilience. I am almost speechless as I listen to them talk about their hopes for moving forward. Their strength moves me.

As I sit here, with my car still packed with all the things that matter to me, I’m reminded that it’s the little things that matter most. These are the things we want to take with us.

In my purse, I have a medal that my mother gave me. It’s sharing space with my kids’ letters, a rosary necklace, and a stone in the shape of a heart that I hold when I need support. When I was told I had to grab what mattered, it was illuminating for me to see what I felt compelled to grab, and what I didn’t care about at all.

Life is a series of moments. Don’t wait for a wildfire or another natural disaster to remind you of what really matters and what doesn’t. Don’t wait for a wildfire to say what you need to say. Don’t spend your moments accumulating stuff that doesn’t matter in the moment because, sometimes, all you have is a moment.

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Interfaith Friendship-Richard Rohr Daily Meditation Week Summary

An image of a large tree with roots growing above ground.Interfaith Friendship

Summary: Sunday, December 3-Friday, December 8, 2017

Underneath the very real differences between religions and peoples lies a unifying foundation. (Sunday)

“If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective.” —Martin Luther King, Jr. (Monday)

“When we seek what is truest in our own tradition, we discover we are one with those who seek what is truest in their tradition.” —James Finley (Tuesday)

God is a mystery of relationship, and the truest relationship is love. Infinite Love preserves unique truths, protecting boundaries while simultaneously bridging them. (Wednesday)

How can we learn to draw from the deep aquifer, the common Source of Love for all religions, without denying the goodness of our own small spring? This is the marriage of unity and diversity. (Thursday)

Jesus and Buddha both speak about anxiety, attachment, grasping, craving, and self-absorption. Christians and Buddhists can help each other remember the teachings at the core of our faiths. (Friday)

Practice: The Eightfold Path

The Buddha said again and again, “I teach only suffering and the transformation of suffering.” As I often say: If you do not transform your pain, you will almost certainly transmit it. All great religion is about what you do with your pain. The Noble Eightfold Path describes the Buddha’s way to transform your pain. The Buddha said, “Wherever the Noble Eightfold Path is practiced, joy, peace, and insight are there.” [1]

Thich Nhat Hanh writes that the Dharma, “the way of Understanding and Love . . . teaches us to recognize suffering as suffering and to transform our suffering into mindfulness, compassion, peace, and liberation. . . . The teachings of the Buddha were not to escape from life, but to help us relate to ourselves and the world as thoroughly as possible.” [2]

James Finley describes the Eightfold Path:

The first two steps of the Eightfold Path are Right View and Right Thinking (“right” meaning effective in evoking happiness and inner peace). These two are associated with the notion of wisdom. They help us ground ourselves in this wisdom of the Eightfold Path.

The next four of the eight steps—Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, and Right Diligence—are the paths of the moral precepts. Do not confuse this with being “moralistic.” The intuition of the Buddha is that one will not come to this inner peace unless one grounds one’s life in an inflowing and outflowing love. This is the core of what it means to be moral.

Jesus also taught an outflow of love when he said: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40).

Love is the outflowing way that we must relate to God and to everything [because everything flows from God] and the outflowing way we must relate to each individual person.

Practicing Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, and Right Diligence expands our realm of conscious freedom to choose love. God cannot and will not give us any gift that we do not want and freely choose—usually again and again.

The last two steps are Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration. The Buddha felt none of this would work without deep meditation practice. [3]

While some people allow themselves to be changed through great love or great suffering, a meditation practice helps us stay receptive and open. It preserves and sustains what we learn in love and suffering.

Gateway to Silence:
We are already one.

References:

[1] Thich Nhat Hanh, The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching (Broadway Books: 1998), 49.
[2] Ibid., 7-8.
[3] James Finley, exclusive Living School teaching. Learn more about the two-year program at cac.org/living-school.

For Further Study:

Richard Rohr and James Finley, Jesus and Buddha: Paths to Awakening (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2008), CD, DVD, MP3 download

Richard Rohr, Cynthia Bourgeault, and James Finley, Returning to Essentials: Teaching an Alternative Orthodoxy (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2015), CD, MP3 download

Richard Rohr, Silent Compassion: Finding God in Contemplation (Franciscan Media: 2014)

An Advent Meditation

As we enter Advent, a season of expectation and preparation, CAC core faculty member James Finley offers a short video meditation. What does the story of Jesus’ birth teach us about how God is present in our lives? “God is unexplainably born in our hearts moment by moment, breath by breath.”

Watch the video (about 7 minutes) at cac.org/faculty-advent-messages.

Introductory Teachings from CAC’s Core Faculty

Our teachers share a wealth of wisdom drawn from both their own lives and centuries of the Christian mystical tradition. If you are new to this path or would like to introduce someone to the contemplative way, see our recommended reading lists, featuring the writings of Richard Rohr, Cynthia Bourgeault, and James Finley.

Learn more at cac.org.

Daily Meditations:
Rebuilding Christianity “From the Bottom Up”

Drawing from his own Franciscan heritage and other wisdom traditions, Richard Rohr reframes neglected or misunderstood teachings to reveal the foundations of contemplative Christianity and the universe itself: God as loving relationship.

Each week of meditations builds on previous topics, but you can join at any time! Watch a short introduction to the theme “From the Bottom Up” (8-minute video)—click here. If you’ve missed earlier messages, explore the online archive.

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Center for Action and Contemplation