The Dawn Deacon

2Y7A1610.jpgwmHere is an unspeakable secret: paradise is all around us and we do not understand. It is wide open. The sword is taken away, but we do not know it: we are off “one to his farm and another to his merchandise.” Lights on. Clocks ticking. Thermostats working. Stoves cooking. Electric shavers filling radios with static. “Wisdom,” cries the dawn deacon, but we do not attend. (Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, 184)

If he were alive during this draconian election, I think Merton would have added, “power-hungry, disingenuous politicians (with the possible exception of Bernie Sanders) babbling over incongruous sound bites.” I excepted Bernie because he is flying above the fray as he deals with issues that are muting the dawn deacon. He is talking issues which strike at the heart of imperium–endless war, gross greed-driven consumerism, and rule by self-serving oligarchs and he has a consistent record from which to speak.

Whether you agree with my assessment of the candidates, one thing is certain. We have lost our moral compass. We know not where morality lies. True north is not on our radar scopes. Consumerism and technology have blunted our ability to hear the dawn deacon. We live in a culture of death and cannot find our way out of the moral quicksand. In the words of Daniel Berrigan, we are “blind, deaf, and, worst of all, heartless.” (Isaiah: Spirit of Courage, Gift of Tears, 33)

The politicians offer us modern versions of the old Roman bread and circuses ruse to keep us content but morally bankrupt as we snuggle in our little comfort zones. Churches, rather than preaching the Gospel, comfort the comfortable using an outmoded tribal god the assure us that the God of ALL is only on our side. The Gospel is about inclusion but they, churches and politicians, preach division scapegoating those who differ from them. They promise to keep building walls instead of bridges. We really are one but they want us to be many. All are not welcome at most communal tables, religious or secular. Our license plates read, “In God we trust,” but we spend over half of our national budget on security. Congress, in a rare bipartisan show (to distract us?), is passing legislation to deal with heroin and opioid addiction. (Have they ever thought about the factors in our warped culture that contribute to addiction?) We incarcerate inordinate numbers of minorities. We execute some of them mainly in Bible Belt states (where is the oxymoron here?). We continue to plunder our environment without regard for the terrible consequences. We murder innocents in the womb, on our streets, and in foreign lands. We let people starve fetid gutters in the Land of Plenty.

To realign our moral compass, we must begin with the Sermon on the Mount. Our call is to make feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, caring for the sick, educating the citizens for democracy (not oligarchy! We cannot afford to let the Tea Party dumb us down.), and setting prisoners free our highest priorities. We follow (not worship because Jesus never said, “Worship me.”) the Living Christ who taught us nonviolence, justice, mercy and compassion. This is the very Cosmic Christ who danced as Wisdom before the dawn of creation. Wisdom incarnate is the dawn deacon beckoning us to recognize that we are all really one. As true disciples, we must dismantle the insane perpetual war machine which divides, conquers, and murders.

Daniel Berrigan says that we must imagine the impossible in the face of the overwhelming odds set up by the powers and principalities. We dare dream impossible dreams. We dare to charge at windmills which will grind us to grist. We chance opening our eyes and realizing that Paradise is all around us. We know that the sword has been taken away.

Compassion and justice are the true north on our moral compass. We shall plant trees under which we will never shelter. We are about being faithful, not necessarily being successful.

I write this on Pentecost. Pentecost is about hope mid despair. The once fearful disciples who abandoned Jesus and went underground boldly proclaimed the Gospel message in the public square. Under the inspiration of the Spirit of the Risen Christ (which has been at work in matter and spirit since the beginning of creation), they answered the call of the dawn deacon. They put away their swords.

Daniel Berrigan wrote:

Indeed, the degradation of America serves to underscore once again the ancient stereotype and impasse of the nations described by Isaiah—imperial nests of sanctioned, perennial violence, of wars that are proclaimed “necessary” and, of course, “just.” Isaiah understood his times and ours—a world laden with memories of war and perennially prepared for another war, clumsy and indifferent in the skills of peace. It is an unlikely time indeed to offer a word of hope and imagination. Yet, the worst time, Isaiah dares say, is the apt time. (Isaiah, 18).

Will we answer the call? Will we let the coals that seared Isaiah’s lips sear ours so that we will speak out boldly? If we do not speak out, who will? Will we proclaim Gospel truth to the powers and principalities? We must allow the Spirit to inspire us with a sense of “the fierce urgency of now” (Martin Luther King); otherwise the universe will stop bending ever so slightly toward justice and compassion.

Let’s make Some Deals

Recovering from the throes of the election is like recovering from a hangover. As we engaged wholeheartedly in the process because some of us were so fearful of where Romney, Ryan and Randian views on rugged individualism would lead us as a people, I kept telling myself, “This too shall pass but probably like a kidney stone!”

Now, it is over and our task is to try to restore a trace of civility to our life together. In Christ there are no red-blue distinctions. We are one in what Paul and the church aptly describe as the Body of Christ-the body of the risen, cosmic Christ who has overcome sin and death, and all categories that divide. In the kin-dom proclaimed by Jesus and already present to us and among us, there is no Jew nor Greek, gay or straight, Muslim or Christian, male or female, red or blue. We are all one in the Risen Christ! The command is quite simple, “Love one another as I have loved you.” Continue reading

Hildegard–Justice and Compassion

I am reading Matthew Fox’s new book, Hildegard of Bingen: A Saint for Our Times and I highly recommend it.  Hildegard (b. 1098) now joins Catherine of Siena, Teresa of Avila, and Therese of Lisieux as a doctor in the church. I agree with Matt Fox. If the pope and his curia really understood Hildegard, they never would have elevated her to sainthood—maybe this is why it took eight centuries!

Hildegard wrote, drew mandalas, composed beautiful music (Listen to her Spiritus Sanctus, and spoke truth to power, both secular and ecclesiastical leaders. Her writings indicate that she is indeed a saint for our time, truly a saint for our nation in 2012 amid the turmoil of a hotly contested election. Continue reading

Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute–no execptions

Jesus said to his disciples:

“To you who hear I say, love your enemies,

do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you,

pray for those who mistreat you.

To the person who strikes you on one cheek,

offer the other one as well,

and from the person who takes your cloak,

do not withhold even your tunic.

Give to everyone who asks of you,

and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back.

Do to others as you would have them do to you.

For if you love those who love you,

what credit is that to you?

Even sinners love those who love them.

And if you do good to those who do good to you,

what credit is that to you?

Even sinners do the same.

If you lend money to those from whom you expect repayment,

what credit is that to you?

Even sinners lend to sinners,

and get back the same amount.

But rather, love your enemies and do good to them,

and lend expecting nothing back;

then your reward will be great

and you will be children of the Most High,

for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.

Be merciful, just as also your Father is merciful. (Luke 6)

Today’s readings are very applicable to what is happening here and now. Christianity is very much about our lived experience. I will pick out two: the political campaign and the situation in Libya and say that Jesus’ teaching in Luke is not to be waived. In culture, Christians have always been called and challenged to stand over against the prevailing culture. For example, see Paul’s prohibition against eating food sacrificed to idols in 1 Corinthians.

My point number one is that “love your enemies” applies even in the heat of an election that raises serious issues about values.

Second, “love your enemies” also applies to our reaction to the assassination of Foreign Service officers in Libya. There is no excuse nor justification for this egregious and unconscionable act. The perpetrators must be brought to justice. The Libyan people are apologizing for what a few misguided extremists did. “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” applies. The vitriol I have seen in the press and on blogs has no place in Christian parlance. Muslims are not barbarians as one blogger asserted. Blowing Muslims into oblivion is not an option.

We are no better than nonbelievers if we love only those who love us. This is another of Jesus’s hard teachings but, like Peter,  to whom else shall we go? These are the words of eternal life lived now.

The Election and the Beatitudes

Richard Rohr has introduced me to Joanna Macy and her concept of deep time. Today, liturgically we celebrate deep time. We feel our connection with the holy ones—named and unnamed—who have gone before. We are in thin places (My Celtic forebears understood that there is a very thin place between us and those who have gone before.) where we are one in the communion of saints. Rohr says our concept of the communion of saints is our rendition of reincarnation.  We look to the past and remember. We live in the present and understand relationships and connectedness. We gaze toward the future with hope for the full coming of the Kin-dom. This is the big picture.

Thomas Merton described it in this way:

The contemplative life must provide an area, a space of liberty, of silence, in which possibilities are allowed to surface and new choices—beyond routine choice—become manifest. It should create a new experience of time, not as stopgap, stillness, but as temps vierge—virginal time—not a blank to be filled or an untouched space to be conquered and violated, but a space which can enjoy its own potentiality and hope—its own presence to itself. One’s own time. But not dominated by one’s own ego and its demands. Hence, open to others—compassionate time, rooted in the sense of common illusion and in criticism of it. (A Year with Thomas Merton, 562) Continue reading