So as you look at your individual or organizational future, what are your challenges? Could you benefit from skilled support? Give us a call at 206-432-3565 or send us an e-mail to start transforming those challenges into opportunities.
EVOLVING TO GREATER WHOLENESS AND HOLINESS
As we work with dioceses, schools, parishes and communities of religious, we have experienced a desire to know, name and be energized by the “Big Picture” by those with whom we are working in our planning and facilitation processes. Sometimes when all of us desire to see the “Big Picture” we have to give up what might be our cherished “little pictures.” We are faced with a “challenge” to help transform the old in order to embrace what is unfolding into the new. This letting go is called for when we become more conscious of how interconnected we are with all creation, and thus part of the “wholeness” in which all creation participates.
As we become more aware of the evolving universe, we understand that it is not something God created once and for all, a long time ago. The universe is an entity with many parts which continues to emerge. From this perception, we begin to intuit that there is something “more to life, than meets the eye.” This evolving universe is an awesome and mysterious insight. When this initial awareness is processed, it challenges us to reflect upon and be open to encountering and being energized by the mystery of the Spirit of God, a presence interwoven in all creation. Flowing from this new or deepening consciousness of the creative Spirit, we begin to notice the wholeness and holiness or sacredness of all creation, of which we are co-creators with the Spirit of God.
Religion and Practices
Because the universe is always evolving, rituals and practices have varied significantly over the centuries as people’s insights changed and developed. Religion and rituals flow out of the need and desire of the people at certain point in time. They reflect the lives of the people and the culture of an era. For instance, birthday calibrations are documented to have taken place at least as early as 5,000 years BCE. Their emphasis in Egypt, for example, was primarily focused on the Pharaoh’s birthday and involved both “promotions” and “death sentences” as well as lavish food. Early celebrations included astrology and were not necessarily celebrated on the actual birthday of the person, but often according to the position of the moon and stars, all of which the people believed forecasted the future. In the Jewish tradition these celebrations were often seen as primitive, evil and not of God. They were to be avoided especially because they were thought to be focused on individuals and seen as celebrations of oneself. At times in the Bible they were called “abominable customs” and against the will of God (Leviticus 18:29-30). The Jewish religious experience and culture were very different from those of the Egyptians, thus their rituals and religious practices would also be different.
Some scholars of the Christian Scriptures have interpreted that the death of John the Baptist was caused by King Herod’s daughter’s request, as part of Herod’s birthday celebration, to have the Baptist killed, and thus it happened. Note in the Scriptures there is no mention of the birthdays of Abraham, Noah, Moses, Samuel David, the apostles, nor even Jesus’ birthday.
The story of Jesus’ birth was told in both Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospel but no date was given. Actually, the first recorded celebration of Jesus’ birthday was in the 4 thCentury. Then, as it is the case today, some celebrated his birthday on January 6 (Epiphany) and others celebrated it on December 25. The celebration often happened in relationship to the harvest and the winter solstice.
The point of this example is to show the role that culture plays in rituals and religion and how their meanings have changed over the years.
Today, our sacramental rituals have been enhanced to respond to the communal needs of the people, as expressed through surveys or programs. We now have the “Sign of Peace,” the communal preparation of adults in the RCIA process, Communal Penance Services, etc.—all of which point to the importance of community and respond to cultural needs–the yearning for communion with others. At the moment of the Second Vatican Council, new understandings that had been evolving over years preceding the Council, were put into words and expressed in ways that moved the Church forward. The Spirit was at work among the people.
New evolving realities, new responsibilities
As we look at the new insights about the earth and the emerging universe, we may also need new rituals or expressions of our belief to reflect a more developed consciousness.
Pope Francis ‘encyclical letter, Laudato Si (On Care for Our Earth) reflects how everything is interconnected. He talks about certain conditions required for the life and survival of society and the honesty needed to question certain models of development, production and consumption. He states quite clearly: it cannot be emphasized enough how everything is interconnected…and not independent of one another. Just as the different aspects of the planet—physical, chemical; and biological—are interrelated, so too living species are part of a network…(138)
Reflecting on the human quest for community, the Pope recognizes that this quest goes beyond people’s desire to be with other people as a way to avoid the negative sense of isolation. Pope Francis enlarges our understanding of relationships and includes all creation.
A sense of deep communion with the rest of nature cannot be real if our hearts lack tenderness, compassion and concern for our fellow human beings. (91)
Moreover, when our hearts are authentically open to universal communion, this sense of friendliness and support, (fraternity) excludes nothing and no one. (92)
Both scientists and religious leaders are pointing to the implications of our seeing, believing and embracing our interconnectedness with all of creation. This thinking confronts the older hierarchical experience of people dominating nature and all “natural creation.” Rather, now we are conscious of being one with nature and realize that we share in the responsibility to care for all creation as the Pope notes above.
We also find an expression reminiscent of the Paschal Mystery in the scientific world. In secular expressions and models it is called a pattern of birth-death-rebirth. At the risk of over-simplifying an important scientific fact—related to the birth-death-rebirth pattern, we all have star dust in our bodies. This is grounded in the fact that the stars experienced a “birth” a beginning, then some exploded and died as stars, and showered their “star life” in the universe and we are benefiting as it is reborn in us.
How do these changing ideas affect our Christian faith?
Jesus had a higher degree of consciousness than we have. He was more aware of the interconnectedness of all creation. He broke many times with the Jewish laws in order to share the mysteries of the interconnected-ness of all creation and the possibilities we have to transform the earth, the world and the universe, little, by little in our relationships with the Spirit of God, one another and all creation.
This is not to deny the divinity of Jesus, but rather to identify more deeply with him and share his divine life as our brother, our model, our inspiration. Matthew, Mark and Paul all talk about Jesus as our brother. Brothers and sisters share the same genetics. They inherit the same bodily characteristics, the same blood characteristics.as their parents and siblings. Every time we share the Eucharist, we share the body and blood of our brother, and the same divine power to love, and in that love, to be a transforming force in the world.
Pope Francis in his latest Exhortation entitled, Gaudete Et Exsultate: On The Call To Holiness
In Today’s World (2018) encourages all to be open to the newness of life with new images and not to get stuck in the past. He comments:
God is eternal newness. God impels us constantly to set out anew to pass beyond what is familiar, to move to the fringes and beyond. (#135)
Let us ask God for the grace not to hesitate when the Spirit calls us to take a step forward. Let us ask for the apostolic courage to share the Gospel with others and to stop trying to make our Christian life a museum of memories. In every situation, may the Holy Spirit cause us to contemplate history in the light of the risen Jesus. In this way, the Church will not stand still, but constantly welcome God’s surprises. (#139)
In closing I’d like to borrow a few segments from Fr. Diarmuid O’Murchu’s Litany of Christian Liberation and invite you to reflectively pray in praise and thanksgiving with me.
- Blessed are we because Jesus bridges the way to our next evolutionary leap, illustrated in the empowerment of his resurrected presence.
- Blessed are we because Jesus models life as a Spirit-filled being, the evolutionary being to which we are all called.
- Blessed are we as the Body of Christ today, challenged never to betray the great story and to tell it afresh in each successive generation. Amen.
Laudato Si (On Care for Our Common Home) (Pope Francis 2015)
Gaudete Et Exsultate: On the Call to Holiness in Today’s World) (Pope Francis 2018)
Ancestral Grace-Meeting God in Our Human Story ( Diarmuid O’Murchu 2009)
Think about what your organization could do if the process of planning met the inevitability of change head-on—and it resulted in significant success.