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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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
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Just This (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2017), 16, 18, 37-38.
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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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.)
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 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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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 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.
I thank God for these moments we have spent together and for any insights I have been given concerning the text.
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.” 
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.” 
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. 
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.
 Thich Nhat Hanh, The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching (Broadway Books: 1998), 49.
 Ibid., 7-8.
 James Finley, exclusive Living School teaching. Learn more about the two-year program at cac.org/living-school.
For Further Study:
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.
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
Loyola Press: A Jesuit Ministry
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 3
First Sunday of Advent
The Presence of God
“Be still and know that I am God.” Lord, your words lead us to the calmness and greatness of your presence.
I am free. When I look at these words in writing, they seem to create in me a feeling of awe. Yes, a wonderful feeling of freedom. Thank you, God.
At this moment, Lord, I turn my thoughts to you. I will leave aside my chores and preoccupations. I will take rest and refreshment in your presence, Lord.
The Word of God comes down to us through the Scriptures. May the Holy Spirit enlighten my mind and my heart to respond to the gospel teachings.
Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.
Jesus is speaking of his second coming at the end of time. We must live so that it does not matter when he comes. Our life becomes a preparation for the vision of happiness.
Do I anticipate the Lord’s coming, or do I dread it? Why do I feel as I do about this?
Begin to talk with Jesus about the Scripture you have just read. What part of it strikes a chord in you? Perhaps the words of a friend—or some story you have heard recently—will slowly rise to the surface of your consciousness. If so, does the story throw light on what the Scripture passage may be trying to say to you?
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be,
World without end. Amen.
► Enjoy an Arts & Faith: Advent reflection for the First Sunday of Advent.
► Start using an Advent calendar today for yourself or with your family.
► Review a selection of Advent resources to learn more about the season and how you might spend this sacred season.
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