We all carry deep within ourselves some ideal of the person we'd like to be. It is a struggle to measure up to that. Tom McMahon in this commentary is essentially exploring what it means to measure up to the ideal sense of self offered by Jesus — as priest or lay-person, man or woman?
Jesus never worked with a church, only people...
The future is a mosaic that you and I are creating. We are privileged to be co-Creators, each fashioning one's own story, each person is given the opportunity to write her/his own gospel (="good news story"/how I spent my life). The only valuable and genuine stories are those of simple human beings. Humans can fool ourselves by creating pseudo-powerful people usually based upon a hollow control of the minds of others. I believe that our Creator has no ranking in creation, all creation being valuable and equal. I am a convert (=turn around) to a Jesus way of living. Greed has no role in a Jesus experience. Materialism has aced Jesus out.
Evolution is the Creator busily at work. We are standing in the river of evolution with its waters of reality rushing past, highly accelerated in the age of technology. In this mystery called life we are privileged to remember the past (memory), to have present awareness (consciousness), and imagination (possible future). With this framework in mind I want to comment on two recent personal experiences, an exit story carried last week in Catholica and an encounter I had at our September Civil War Round Table meeting last Tuesday night. Decades ago I learned that "everything is process". As well I have spent my life therapeutically with us little people. From early seminary days I hoped to be involved in a human experience each day of my life. As humans become more robotic this has become a challenge. My task is personal, aware that I have been early trained to be a robot conformist clergyman.
The Confession of a Priest...
From last week's Exit Stories [LINK] that have been collected by Milly and published on Catholica...
Readers, have you any idea of the courage, honesty, and wisdom of this human being who wrote this short and ever so meaningful "confession"? It is not a "confession" as such implies guilt. This man expresses truth, becoming god-like in his new found freedom. Creeds are supposed to be expressions of faith yet are now so ritualized and out-dated they are beyond human understanding. As a community of faith we have written our own expressions of faith since 1967. We believe in what we experience or imagine to be true.
I can resonate with this man as he bares his personal private world. He is a modern Jesus who has taken himself off a Roman intellectual cross and his revelation of self is totally genuine. His words are filled with truth and pain. He tears away the mask-façade of the priest imposed upon him in a medieval seminary training yet the wholesome person survives the painful search for what is real and true. His searching process took years and he confronted his demons not only for himself but for the good of the very people he dedicated his life to serve. Hidden in his words are the painful rejection by those very people for whom he became a priest, they, in fear, refusing truth and wisdom, silently labeling him as heretic. (Tom knows the drill). In a controversy over truth Jesus warns: "he who has ears to hear let him hear!"
How historically correct he is as he avoids Mass, realizing this gathering is no longer the community celebrating a newly risen Jesus and his Way but has become a commercial enterprise used ingenuinely by the CEO's of one of the largest corporations in the world. Cardinal Bernard Law, once an advocate of the poor, was corrupted in his episcopal office by the greed of this world wide institution. Law approved of pedophile criminal priests so as to keep the mass money-making machine working. Its profits are big and the people get a wafer Jesus and a promise of eternal life in return. I see this letter writer (I wish I knew his name) as a hero, a Dietrich Bonhoeffer type who in the 1930's defied Hitler. This writer is my type of a Jesus follower, scorned as a heretic by those who in their ignorance and fear refuse to discern the times and truth. You are right on, my friend and your witness is well received. By the way St. Augustine (hardly always a good boy himself) said "the only heretic is the one who calls another a heretic". Cheers for you, my freed-up friend. You are truly a Jesus servant priest.
Should I respond to this call? A question we all face at times...
I did not man my railway post as station host this past Tuesday. I choose to attend our monthly meeting of THE CIVIL WAR ROUND TABLE [a meeting of local people with an interest in the American Civil War]. The experience turning out to be rather dull. With a new confused waitress the milk shake I ordered never arrived and I was somewhat blah waiting upon my ride home. In the midst of a mingling crowd an older woman beckoned me and I approached her. "I hope I can have some of your time to talk. I have heard you speak twice at the Round Table meetings and with your background I know you are the one I want to speak with." This elderly senior, speaking carefully and intelligently, has had a tumor removed from her brain. I shall visit her this week in her home, arriving with no agenda and only to listen. I will not be surprised if she questions how the sky-God let this happen to her. In the midst of a dying ordained male priesthood perhaps the new movement of female priests can offer a great service to the elderly and those who have fallen through the cracks of parish attention.
(I am opposed to women being ordained as Trentan liturgical priests, a gender-change only in a dying liturgical system. With the same thinking I am opposed to tuition subsidies for sending men of color to be trained as railway Pullman car attendants. [I'll offer a report two weeks from now.])
Tom Questions? Is this an experience any follower of Jesus might involve in? I thought of my seminary days where I day-dreamed during 1952 theology classes about Jesus talking with the woman at the well. Did I need to become a priest to be of service to a fellow human being? I had no idea that we would come full circle, returning to the early saying "the Christian is another Christ". When I took 30 teens into Russia and Europe in 1967 we had months of psychological preparation I asked them to be "ambassadors of Jesus"; in our 42 days abroad we met many a Jesus person. I had read John the 23rd's encyclical PACEM IN TERRIS.
I began to see the Creator's "kingdom on earth" the day I sat watching Neil Armstrong place his boots on the moon. Earth was expanded to Universe and I began to realize the beautiful mosaic of all creation.
As a human I was in awe and as priest I felt terribly inadequate to be the people's representative of the All Powerful, The Mystery far beyond my comprehension. The stars, the planets, our earth, my embodied life, etc., etc., etc., were gifts for me to enjoy. Brian Swimme would elaborate on the presence of "divine life" (inadequate human term) and Muir and Berry would advocate for our being responsibly protective of the gifts. I would begin to see my role in the work of preserving the Creator's gifts.
Allow me here to rerun Michael Morwood's brilliant statement. His words are self explanatory.
"We are living through the greatest shift ever in Christian thought. New images of our universe and our planet, along with knowledge about the long, slow development of life on this planet provide us with a new context in which to understand the divine presence we call God always present and active everywhere. Reflection on the universality of this presence leads to further reflection on and renewed appreciation of Jesus as revealer of this mysterious presence in our everyday living and loving, rather than on Jesus as the mediator between us and a faraway deity. A Church always in need of renewal must engage, at all levels, this shift in images and thought if it is to have integrity and relevance in the twenty-first century."
Science has rocketed beyond the moon and the age of technology in its arrogance may bypass the footprints of a Creator. I see the fascinating potential of a rediscovered religion (re-legare = to tie together, Creator and created). Some ancient nature religions have offered wonderful insights into the concept of an All Powerful Creator. Others are bizarre while it is safe to say humorously "moost are far out". The growth of an apple on a seasonal tree is a profound mystery — a footprint of THE MYSTERY dwelling amongst us.
After 26 years of dedicated service to God and people as Roman priest I was faced with human dilemmas. (i) I could no longer think in a pre-Vatican Two model; and, (ii) I was no longer willing to remain celibate, thus bypassing the gift of human sexuality offered to each person by our Creator. Late in life I had read in the Vatican Two documents that the chief role of the priest-pastor was to form community, I would be the responsible one for gathering the Community of Christ Our Lord and Brother as well as my own family community. I would fail and succeed. As parent of two, and grandparent of five, I have today a wealth to offer to others.
Tad Gussi, married Jesuit theologian, in the 1960's pointed out that the genuine outward sign of Eucharist is the breaking of bread together and the drinking of the cup in mutual support and trust. The bread and wine by themselves symbolize virtually nothing; they make a nice picture yet they are not the original Jesus signs. An erroneous 1500's Da Vinci replica as a bona fide 1st century Jewish Seder completely misses the point of Jesus using the Passover meal as a sign of community among his followers, female and male. I have been involved with a 30-year struggle of "breaking bread" with wife and children, so many times failing to meet a Jesus standard yet still willing to stay faithful in the attempt.
We have much study and work to do to rediscover the connection between Creator and created. Thomas Berry in his book THE GREAT WORK offers us a pathway to our better understanding. The Great Work is our work. Western culture since the dawn of the Industrial Age has become accustomed to quick change, the rapid transition of one product into another. This ability will poorly serve the needed transition from "a far away deity" (as Michael Morwood says above) to the life energy of a Creator cleverly hidden in a rock (Teilhard de Chardin). The challenge before the followers of Jesus today is to meet and talk, attempting to discern the mind of Jesus the Mediator (Morwood above). There is no cheap way to this discovery. And it won't be accomplished at Sunday Mass.
I just ordered "The Sacred Universe: Earth, Spirituality, and Religion in the Twenty-first Century" Thomas Berry; and "The Dream of the Earth" Thomas Berry. I am a novice in this Creator-religion transition, now awaiting a dialogue community in which we can learn together.
Next week: a plan for educational retreats in the High Sierra.
Tom McMahon, in San Jose, Ca., the student who yearns to sit at the feet of Jesus as he/community teaches. 03Oct2011
What are your thoughts on this commentary?