One Earth. One God. Rise Up!

PBSnewshour91616.png

©PBS Newshour. September 16, 2016

I woke up in the middle of the night. When this happens, and to my growing irritation it happens frequently, it is for no good reason. Not last night, though.

One Earth. One God. That was the gist of last night’s dream. And those words wove themselves into the remaining four fitful hours of “sleep,” telling me that all faith traditions must pull together and respond as one to the crisis our earth faces. I know this dream was informed by the story of the Dakota Access Pipeline on PBS Newshour (9/16/16) and the powerful response of over 100 Native American tribes from all over the United States who converged at the Standing Rock Reservation in support of one another.

One Earth. One God. We have a unique opportunity to share our traditions, our respect for the Earth, our creeds and our creation stories for the good of the world.

The words, One Earth. One God are a way to think about an ecumenical response to the crisis that is rapidly unfolding in every corner of our planet. While we can do little more than passively experience climate change-related bizarre weather patterns, devastating storms and natural disasters, we can reject and stop the active and ongoing destruction of human and animal habitats and subterranean ecosystems by curbing our relentless appetite for fuel. If we wanted to, we could stop this.

In March of this year, I awoke in the middle of the night with a crystal clear understanding of God’s plan for creation. Really. It was as if someone turned on every light in the house and I could see without my glasses. I cycled the idea in my semi-sleep hoping it would find a place to settle until the morning when I could have a better look.

The majority of dreams vaporize. Our nocturnal wisdom dissolves, leaving us with disturbing traces, impossible to contain. This was no different. The following morning I tried to grasp its fleeting tendrils, but the only words I would write were “God’s plan is a complete reversal of what humans have come to believe is the natural order.”

Clearly, this is not a new idea. That the least shall be the greatest is at the center of the Gospels. At the time of my dream, it was Lent, and I was probably just rehashing what I was reading about the nature of God in the New Testament, that the Kingdom of God is revealed through the least expected, the poor, the small, the humble. The infant born in a barn, etc. It’s not a top-down world; it’s a bottom-up world.

The natural order is not the tree that drops the seed, it is the soil that allows the seed to sprout. But even soil needs to be disturbed for a seed to take root.

Isn’t it true that the material God uses is the ordinary, chaotic, unglamorous stuff? Doesn’t life begin one way or another in the dark?

Someone smarter than me once said ‘the bread can’t rise until the dough has time to rest.’ In the same way, it seems that our collective desire for change grows out of that kneading of life’s scraps, old jewelry and gravel, joy and heartache, injustices and kindness, successes and fatigue, strings and bits and morsels, late night talks, desperation and loneliness, and thirst. Everything is mixed together and kept alive like a succulent with spritzes of Holy water.

In that enormous pile, like in the dough, mysterious happenings are taking place. And no matter how many times the powerful of the world punch the dough down, it will always rise up in new and surprising ways.

A river runs through it!

A Guest Post by Fr. Joel Fortier

A  river runs through my life, like a thread, connecting everything, weaving a beautiful tapestry of life in an unending flow. That river, that thread, is the Spirit. The Spirit of God not only abides in us, it flows through us. The Spirit is a river of energy, an underground current of love, a force field which flows through all creation like a water-table beneath all of life, an elan vital! [Ps 1:3Jer 17:8Ezk 31:5 and Ezk 47:12Is 44:4]. We are not only “in Christ”, Christ is “in us.” We share and live in the Spirit of Jesus; we share Christ’s life in love. [Gal 2:20 and Col 1:27].

What we can do and help each other do, is to tap the Spirit, the river of divine love and grace which flows through us and everything, by our encounters with each other in love, especially through our compassionate prayer, love, patience, and mercy. Then the Holy Spirit will well up within us as a fountain of living water. [Jn 4:14 and Jn 7:38]. As we tap the Spirit of God which is within us, we stay grounded and live in the flow of intentional Love. It is to stay grounded in the Presence which is within, surrounds, sustains, and connects us. We are like trees planted near running water when we live in conscious intentional love. It is what Jesus calls…invites…and “commands” us to do. [Jn 13:34-35].

It is The Way Jesus showed us in himself to eternal life. It is The Way into the divine energy and love which flows through all of us at all times. It yearns, groans, and desires to be released in us and in our world. It can bring life and healing into the parched earth of our broken lives and hardened hearts. It can keep us safe, centered, and grounded when we find ourselves in the midst of negative destructive energy. That is why Jesus tells and shows us how to love and forgive even our enemies.

The Power of Love

Love is stronger than hate, life is stronger than death, and grace is stronger than sin. It is the power and victory of the cross we are called to celebrate and proclaim. Mercy trumps all other forces of sin, destruction, and death. It creates cosmos and harmony in the midst of chaos and discord. Love is the only force that can change our world.

Love creates Peace when there is no peace. Presence breeds Presence. It quells life and people who are not Present, when people seem out of their minds. We need that Presence now more than ever in the midst of an insane and violent world. We need the Peace and Presence of Christ in our lives; in our hearts and in our minds. “Have in you the mind of Christ”. [Phil 2:5].

If we live in conscious intentional love we will have the peace, heart, and mind of Christ. It is a choice, a decision we can make even when we do not “feel” loving. The decision to love can be made even if we don’t feel like it. It is what Christ did. I’m sure it didn’t feel good hanging from the cross, but that is where Jesus poured out the last drop of his precious blood upon us…where we were loved, cleansed, healed, and brought into wholeness [1Peter 2:24]. That is why Jesus said, “Love one another AS I have loved you.” [Jn 15:12]. It is that experience into which we were Baptized. If we die with Christ we shall surely also live with Christ. [Rom 6:3-5, and Rom 8].

The Practice of the Presence of God

To be able to make such a choice, such a decision, we need the strength of practiced virtue. We need to proactively Practice the Presence of God in all times and circumstances, so that when it is hard to be Present in Love we will have some conditioning that enables us to do what we do not feel like doing. We can practice it in the simplest of ways and mundane circumstances of life, such as when we are stuck in traffic or a long line at the super market, in any frustrating situation, or when we are with people who are toxic and negative.

The Practice of the Presence of God is closely linked to the virtue of divine Patience. It has been said that Patience is the mother of all virtue. If we can learn to be in that place of knowing Presence when we are distracted, anxious, or in a hurry, we can grow in the divine virtue of Patience. We will grow in our ability to stay grounded in Love; centered and grounded in the Spirit of divine grace and love which is flowing in every circumstance and moment of life. To Be in the Presence is to be in the flow of the divine love, mercy, and compassion which flows from the Sacred Heart of Christ.

The Practice of the Presence of God will enable us to act rather than just react. It will help us to put an end to the cycle of hate, violence, and negative energy. It will enable us to be present with love rather than allowing ourselves to be infected by the toxic energy of non-love, sin, and negative energy, reacting with hate or violence. It will enable us to be nonviolent and Peaceful, to bear the Presence Christ in our world.

Jesus knew how to be Present and make appropriate responses to people and situations.  He could be and eat with sinners and tax collectors, as well as with rich people. He could speak and act in truth when he needed to, as in the temple cleansing, and the calling out of Pharisees, lawyers, and hypocrites. And he could be silent, mute as a lamb before the shearer, with Pilot [Isaiah 53:7], and in the non-verbal love shown from the cross. Jesus taught us how to practice the Presence of God in all circumstances and in the ultimate way of love; how to grow in age, wisdom, and grace, to do God’s will and come to the fullness of glory. Jesus teaches us how to be and bear the Presence Christ in the world today.

The Practice of the Presence of God opens us to and is an entry point for us into the Kingdom of God. It is about the “Omnipresence” of God, bidden or unbidden, God is always present to us, with us, and in us. The Kingdom is here…now…in us and in our midst. [Lk 17:20-21].

Let us take time now to be mindful, in this moment, take some deep breaths, and be present to the God who is always Present to us.

God is indeed the ground of our being, always flowing through us and in our lives. We need to say yes to the action of God’s grace and presence in our lives as Mary did; to stay centered and grounded in Love, in the divine Presence. It is what saves and connects us!

A River runs through it!

___________________________________

Born in 1942 to French Canadian parents, Fr. Joel Fortier, along with his three siblings grew up in an environment steeped in Catholic spirituality and practice. He entered the University of Illinois before seminary to study Psychology, Education, and Philosophy. In 1969, Joel was ordained with a Master of Divinity from St. Meinrad Seminary for the Diocese of Joliet, Illinois with extensive work and training in inner city parishes, and peace and justice movements. Joel received his Doctor of Ministry from St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore. He has worked with Marriage Encounter, Cursillo, and Charismatic movements integrating with parish pastoral ministry. He is the Founding Director of the Center for Family Ministry for the Diocese of Joliet. Fr. Joel was the Pastor and founder of The Lisieux Pastoral Center of St. Theresa Parish in Kankakee, IL,the Pastor of St. Isidore Parish, Bloomingdale IL, and most recently the Pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle in Naperville, IL. Now retired from full-time parish ministry since 2013, Fr. Joel continues to live out his core statement: “To help make love happen, anywhere and any way possible.”

 

Life and love are stronger than hate and death

© Yongsung Kim

© Yongsung Kim

A reflection on the Feast of Christ the King, by Fr. Joel Fortier.

The Second Coming…the coming of the Kingdom of Christ the King, Prince of Peace, Lord of Lords, King of Kings…a Kingdom of priests, a Kingdom of truth, justice, peace and love.

The second coming is a process, not an event. The Kingdom of God is already here, indeed has always been here. Jesus said the Kingdom of God is in your midst, within you…at hand!  [Lk 17:21] The coming of the FULLNESS of the Kingdom begun with the Incarnation and was inexorably established in the victory of the Cross and Resurrection. Christ is drawing all things into a unity of love and understanding, of justice and peace. That is the process we are caught up in now: the process of dying and rising with Christ.

The battle has indeed been won and we are called to share in the victory and power of the cross, not by our own power or military might, but by our utter vulnerability in love. Such is the way and victory of the cross. Life and love are stronger than hate and death. The battle is won and we share its victory.

As we experience this process of the Kingdom coming to be in fullness, we discover that we are not separate; individuated yes, but not separate. We are all connected and sustained by God’s love, the ground of our being, the common ground we share with all creation and all peoples; the ground from which we have all emerged…star dust…all energy…the Christ, thru whom all things came to be, in whom we live, and move, and have our being; the ALPHA and the OMEGA, the point from which we have come, to which we are all headed, drawn by God’s love, thru Christ, in the Spirit, to share in the very nature and Being of God: Love.

On that great day when all things are drawn into the fullness of unity and love, Christ will be “all in all”, it will be the FULL revelation of Christ; the second coming, the fullness of the Incarnation and the glorification of all creation, indeed what the Resurrection and glory of the Risen Christ is all about; and of what is meant by “the resurrection of the body on the last day”, when all things are drawn up into Christ, through whom they have come, and presented as embodied consciousness, embodied love, back to God as gift, the source of all goodness and life.

We are created to share the very life of the Trinity. That is what creation is all about, the wondrous mystery of the Universe coming to be in Christ, created by love for love! Come Lord Jesus come! O Christ of the Cosmos!

We yearn, long, and look forward to the second coming of Christ; for the full revelation of God’s glory in all creation. Because of this, the fundamental attitude of a Christian is HOPE, indeed as it is for all people. All creation groans with the expectation of full consciousness, it is an impulse to love, and desire for full communion in love with God. It is what the reality of the Eucharist is about, holds, and reflects, O Sacrament Divine! Food for the journey home! Come pilgrim let us walk together on this great adventure of life, a journey of love.

Come Lord Jesus come! Show us the path to Peace, lead us in your ways! Let your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven!

_____________________________

Born in1942 to French Canadian parents, Fr. Joel Fortier, along with his three siblings grew up in an environment steeped in Catholic spirituality and practice. He entered the University of Illinois before seminary to study Psychology, Education, and Philosophy. In 1969, Joel was ordained with a Master of Divinity from St. Meinrad Seminary for the Diocese of Joliet, Illinois with extensive work and training in inner city parishes, and peace and justice movements. Joel received his Doctor of Ministry from St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore. He has worked with Marriage Encounter, Cursillo, and Charismatic movements integrating with parish pastoral ministry. He is the Founding Director of the Center for Family Ministry for the Diocese of Joliet. Fr. Joel was the Pastor and founder of The Lisieux Pastoral Center of St. Theresa Parish in Kankakee, IL,the Pastor of St Isidore Parish, Bloomingdale IL, and most recently the Pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle in Naperville, IL. Now retired from full-time parish ministry since 2013, Fr. Joel continues to live out his core statement: “To help make love happen, anywhere and any way possible.”

How does your garden grow?

15th Sunday of Ordinary Time (B)

There is a weed in my garden commonly known as Bishop’s Weed (Aegopodium podagrariaI). Were it not for its resemblance to Poison Ivy this invasive and vile three-leaved specimen surely would never have been allowed to flourish. I have attempted many times to destroy it including most recently pinching off the leafy part of about 2 million stems, taking care not to disturb the root lest it get the memo I am out to kill it, and hoping that by defoliating the plant and preventing the process of photosynthesis it would perish. However, this method has been a complete failure. Instead of death by starvation, this little bugger taunts me by sending up hundreds of new shoots. Every stinking morning there they are, waving their perky little annoying crowns at me. Oh, hello, Susan! Have a beautiful day! Grrrr. Why I oughta…

Then I read the Gospel for this weekend’s liturgy, the 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time, and it occurred to me that the foe in my garden might better be called the Disciple’s Weed. For this plant’s persistence amidst adversity is analogous to the missionary identity and activity of the first evangelists, Jesus’ disciples.

After being rejected by his people in Nazareth [MK 6:1-6], Jesus took his message to the surrounding villages. In Mark’s gospel, one now senses in Jesus an urgent need to spread the good news of the Kingdom of God. He summons the twelve, authorizes them with powers so they too can participate in his mission, and sends them off in twos. Even though they frequently misunderstood him, he trusted the twelve to get it right.

The scripture does not say how long the disciples were gone nor does it say what Jesus did in the meantime. All the gospel tells us is that they could bring a walking stick and wear sandals, and they were to depend on the goodwill of others for everything else including food and shelter. In other words, the disciples were to do the work of Jesus in the exact same way he did it. And, if like Jesus’ experience in Nazareth, they entered a place where they were not welcome they were to move on, because there were many other villages and people awaiting their message of hope.

This is really good news for Christians. Jesus entrusted the delivery of his message to disciples who were slow but earnest students, just like most of us. And by virtue of our baptism we are likewise included on Jesus’ team of missioners. We don’t have all the answers, we sometimes bumble along and make a mess of things, but we persist. Jesus trusted the twelve to get it right; I believe he can trust us as well.

(I still want that Bishop’s Weed gone, though.)

Today’s readings can be found here.