Evolutionary Prayer


Hope = the other buds will bloom.

After much reading and reflection, I have come to the point where I can no longer pray to a tribal god, sometimes warlike, who is up there and out there, ready to rush in a rescue me from the powers and principalities, any evil which may befall me. William Cleary best describes the God I have found—an evolutionary God:

But Evolutionary Faith reminds us that “divine inspiring energy does not emanate from some external heavenly realm, but from within the depths of the creative process itself. The creative energy is an unambiguously inspirited and inspiring life-force.” In other words, we find the spirit of God everywhere and can speak to it and pray to it there-if we have situated ourselves firmly within the evolutionary story and realize the presence everywhere of a God alive and available. If evolution happened and is happening, then God-the spirit mother of life, the spirit father of creation, the Loving Mystery behind and within everything-is at work in it, around us, near us, within us. (William Cleary, Prayers to an Evolutionary God, location 267) Continue reading

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.

Comfort My People

Glen Falls, NC leveling a mountain c. J. Patrick Mahon

Glen Falls, NC leveling a mountain
c. J. Patrick Mahon

“Comfort, oh comfort my people,”
says your God.
“Speak softly and tenderly to Jerusalem,
but also make it very clear
That she has served her sentence,
that her sin is taken care of—forgiven!
She’s been punished enough and more than enough,
and now it’s over and done with.”

Thunder in the desert!
“Prepare for God’s arrival!
Make the road straight and smooth,
a highway fit for our God.
Fill in the valleys,
level off the hills,
Smooth out the ruts,
clear out the rocks.
Then God’s bright glory will shine
and everyone will see it.
Yes. Just as God has said.” (Is 40)

The Advent beat goes on. Bold promises of God coming to save God’s people greet us daily as we open the Advent scriptures. Continue reading

Pope Francis’ Exhortation and Merton

Bird Flying In_1As I ponder the new Exhortation from Pope Francis, I feel as if a new day has dawned once again. My mind flits back to John XXIII and his speech to open the Vatican Council over 50 years ago. My mind slow forwards laboriously through the painful roll back of hope under John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Francis, in his own words, has “the smell of the sheep” and we, Christians and all people of good will, recognize him as our shepherd in these difficult times. Francis warns us that “sourpusses” [May be the first ever appearance of this word in a papal writing] cannot spread the joy of the Gospel. Like Paul, he exhorts us to rejoice always as we carry the message of Christ’s love to one another. This is a far cry from the evangelism of the conquistadors. This is about humans in heart-to-heart communion.

Here are the first three paragraphs of the Exhortation:

1.The joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness, and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew. In this Exhortation I wish to encourage the Christian faithful to embark upon a new chapter of evangelization marked by this joy, while pointing out new paths for the Church’s journey in years to come.

2.The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience. Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades. This is a very real danger for believers too. Many will fall prey to it, and end up resentful, angry and listless. That is no way to live a dignified and fulfilled life; it is not God’s will for us, nor is it life in the Spirit which has its source in the heart of the Risen Christ.

 3.I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unflinchingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since “no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord.” The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk; whenever we take a step toward Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms. Now is the time to say to Jesus:

“Lord, I have let myself be deceived; in thousands of ways I have shunned your love, yet here I am once more, to renew my covenant with you. I need you. Save me again, Lord, take me once more into your redeeming embrace.”

How good it feels to come back to him whenever we are lost! Let me say this once more: God never tires of forgiving us; we are the ones who tire of seeking his mercy. Christ who told us to forgive one another “seventy times seven” (Mt 18:22) has given us his example: he has forgiven seventy times seven. Time and time again he bears us on his shoulders. No one can strip us of the dignity bestowed upon us by this boundless and unfailing love. With a tenderness that never disappoints, but is always capable of restoring our joy, he makes it possible for us to lift up our heads and start anew. Let us not flee from the resurrection of Jesus, let us never give up, come what will. May nothing inspire us more than his life, which impels us onwards! (http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/francesco/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20131124_evangelii-gaudium_en.html)

Wow!!! I am continuing to read Higgin’s book, Thomas Merton on Prayer. What I am reading makes me wonder whether Francis has read and studied Merton. Not that he had to because all mystics come to the some truth.

I am gaining a better understanding of hat Merton meant about the true self and false self. The false self is about survival and Bishop Spong on his around the world pilgrimage observed and reported on animal behavior, all of which is directed toward survival—survival of the fittest. Obviously, our residual reptilian brain impels us to do whatever is necessary to survive; however, the call of the Risen Christ invites us to transcend our survival instincts. The image of God deep within us is the true self which enables us to the transcend instinct.

Merton has two stages. The emptiness Francis describes is the alienation which Merton describes. At some point in our life, we move from first half survival to second half transcendence. We are becoming more than what we are. For Francis, we are gifted with the love of God in Christ; this fuels our desire to share the love of God with all others. Ditto Merton. The transcendence of the true self moves us toward communion with all others—no exceptions. Merton warns that this is not an easy task. When we come to abyss of emptiness and nakedness, Francis and Merton urge us to fall headlong into the darkness so we can emerge on the other side filled with God’s mercy and compassion. When we know we are empty, God can then fill our emptiness with abundance which we can share with others.

Filled with abundance, we can truly “Rejoice always!”



Dharmakaya: Buddha and Jesus


Seated Buddha at White Sands Buddhist Center, Mims, FL

Seated Buddha at White Sands Buddhist Center, Mims, FL

Today’s readings from the Book of Wisdom and John describe rejection and frustration. Wisdom speaks eloquently about the plight of every prophet. Prophets and poets feed our souls. They challenge us to be more than what we are. They beckon us to live up to the image of the Living god within our hearts. What do we do? We close our ears. We refuse to listen. If they really venture deep into our comfort zones, we plot ways to be rid of them. As the Southern churchgoer once yelled at the country preacher, “Reverend, you’ve gone from preaching to meddling.” We do not want poets and prophets to mess with our lives, our ways of thinking, our ways of doing things. We want to tiptoe through life feeling comfortable. We want to avoid angst. We eschew suffering. Continue reading


c. J. P. Mahon, 2013

c. J. P. Mahon, 2013

The only theme that ties the reading from Daniel and the Gospel from Matthew is forgiveness. Azariah (Abednego) is the principal prayer in the apocalyptic story in Daniel. The captors changed their Jewish names to Babylonian names, a tactic often use by captors to dehumanize the victims. Apocalyptic stories focus on the present pain and speak hope of delivery in the future. Azariah, amid the flames, prays for forgiveness not only for himself but for all the people held in captivity. Matthew is a stern warning about the consequences of not forgiving. Continue reading

Life’s Desert Experience

Yesterday, my desert was a jungle at the Brevard Zoo. c. J. P. Mahon, 2013

Yesterday, my desert was a jungle at the Brevard Zoo.
c. J. P. Mahon, 2013

Our rector, Father Rob, gave a powerful homily last Sunday on finding our way to our desert place during Lent. Painful as it may be at times, it is a blessing for the Spirit to lead us into a desert place as She led Christ. Desert places help us to find out who we are and where we need to be going when we return from the desert. Christ came back charged up to proclaim his mission of liberation and sight-giving.

Many of you who read these reflections are in or fast approaching the so-called Golden Years. Perhaps, retirement has already been a desert place for you. What do you do after UPS comes? The prestige and rewards of job and career have vanished. You now have time. Sometimes retirement simply means more time to go to the doctors (notice how the number of specialist doctors increases) and go to the funerals of friends. Sometimes, if you are fortunate, you can turn your energy toward volunteering (working without pay). Continue reading

Be Countercultural


Fiery Sunset
c. J. P. Mahon

Seems like Christmas was just a few weeks ago. Now we are celebrating the first Sunday of Lent. Tempus fugit! Time flies. We have emerged from the Christmas season celebrating the incarnation of the Christ, sojourned through a few weeks of ordinary time and now are entering a time of reflection and penance. Rohr reminds us that Lent can be a liminal desert experience for us if we use the time to reexamine our lives as Christians. BTW, liminal means threshold. Lent puts us on the threshold of baptismal renewal at Easter. Continue reading

Ash Wednesday 2013

The Grandeur of God's Glory--Light at play.

The Grandeur of God’s Glory–Light at play. c. J. P. Mahon 2013

“Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” This solemn pronouncement during the imposition of ashes signals the beginning of Lent. Lent is usually a somber time when our hang-dog fasting look gives away the fact that we are not really very good at fasting in secret.

But is it so somber? Think for just a minute. The call to metanoia, repentance, transformation is also a reminder, as our Buddhist friends say, of our face before we were born. We ARE dust—the stardust flaring forth from the Creator in whose very image and likeness we are created. We have a spark of the Divine within us.

Lent, therefore, presents us with a paradox—our mortality and our divine destiny. We live during Lent in the liminal space between death and resurrected life in the Cosmic Risen Christ. One foot stands on death and the other stands on life, which is the Paschal mystery.

In the January Experience conference, Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann reflected on Daniel’s prayer in chapter 9. God says, “I love you.” Daniel, representing all the people, responds, “We have sinned.” God responds, “I forgive you.” Like Daniel, Joel called the people to prayer, fasting and repentance. In both Daniel and Joel, the mind of God was changed by the efficacy of prayer, “Then the LORD was stirred to concern for his land and took pity on his people.”

Lent is a time to rediscover our face before we were born. It is the time to truly believe that God will intervene in our lives to make gift us with boundless shalom—health, well-being, wholeness. Prayer in the secret room of our hearts, almsgiving to alleviate human misery,  and fasting to discipline what Francis called “Brother Ass” (and to promote health and well-being—shalom) all serve to lead us into the depths of our true self. Lenten practice helps us to fan the flames of the divine spark deep within us so that we might come to new life—life in Christ Jesus. Now is indeed the acceptable time to become what we are.

Lent is an invitation to enter more fully into the second half of life. The path of ascent in the first half of life has created the container which is ego-driven. Awakening to the challenges of the second half of life leads us on the path of descent—descent into our true self where the Divine dwells deep within us. As our Lenten practices lead us deeper and deeper into the dark depths of our true self, we answer the call to let go. We answer the call, as did Mary, to surrender to the Divine. We become one with the Jesus on the cross so that we might become the Christ of the resurrection.

Lent is about living in the Light—“I am the Light of the world.” The Creator’s first act on the first day of creation was to create light. Light is the ultimate metaphor for the Divine. Hildegard of Bingen and Thomas Merton both recognized the Light in the second half of their lives. Hildegard’s musical composition, Symphonia, and Merton’s poem, Hagia Sophia, both contain innumerable references to the Light. Hildegard scholar Barbara Newman entitled one book, Voice of the Living Light. Hildegard reports that she first saw “The Shade of the Living Light” when she was three. She began to write about her visions when she was 42 (second half path of descent). Merton shows a comprehensive understanding of the path of descent in his last years. One of the many references to Wisdom in his masterful poem, Hagia Sophia, is, “We do not hear mercy, or yielding love, or non-resistance, or non-reprisal. In her there are no reasons and no answers. Yet she [Wisdom] is the candor of God’s light, the expression of His simplicity.”

We are emerging from the darkest part of the year. The glimmer of Easter hope is lighting our way to renewed life in the Risen Cosmic Christ who is the Light of the world and the expression of God’s simplicity—mercy, love, compassion.


Shine on


This Egret gives glory to God by being an Egret.

Today’s scripture readings focus on Moses’ experience of the Divine on Sinai and Jesus’ experience of the Divine on Tabor. The light shining forth from Moses’ face was an indication of the divine glory. The change in Jesus’ face and his dazzling bright clothing also was a manifestation of the divine glory (shekinah, doxa). God’s glory is ultimately enshrined in the Ark of the Covenant and then the Temple as a sign of God’s presence. God’s glory was enshrined in both Moses and Jesus.

Creation is the primary revelation of God’s glory. As Merton said, “A tree gives glory to God by being a tree.” All creation glorifies the Creator as it flares forth from the original energy of the divine stardust.

We too are created in the image of God. God’s glory shines forth in us and through us. The eastern Church had a better grasp of this. God became incarnate, human so that we might become divine. God hovers over us as light and names us as God’s precious children. The Spirit is transforming us into divinity. We become more like God—loving, merciful, and  compassionate.

In recent conferences, both Richard Rohr and Matthew Fox said that light is the primary metaphor for God. In the 12th century, the Benedictine nun, Hildegard of Bingen, now a saint and doctor of the church, understood this, “The compassion of the grace of God will make humans light up like the sun.” (Scivias, 84) Twelve centuries later, Benedictine Trappist monk, Thomas Merton also got it, ““There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.” (Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, 153)

We light up like the sun and we walk around shining like the sun. The Spirit is transforming us as Moses and Jesus were transformed on Sinai and Tabor. We are light. In fact, Jesus said we are the light of the world and reminded us that He is the way, the truth, and the LIGHT! We are light. We are stardust glowing and flaring forth from the Creator. God dwells within us even more powerfully than God ever dwelt in a temple. We are, as Paul says, temples of the Holy Spirit. We live the very Spirit of the Risen Cosmic Christ as we dwell in the community which is the Body of Christ. We are beloved sons and daughters with whom Abba God is well pleased.

Shine on!!! Glory on!!! Manifest the glory of God by being what you can become—being fully human as the tree is fully tree.