Archive for November, 2012

Dating God Podcast #20 — Advent Special Podcast

Posted in Advent, Dating God Podcast with tags , , , , on November 30, 2012 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

In this episode of the Dating God Podcast we are joined by Julianne Wallace, a campus minister at St. Bonaventure University and someone who is an advocate for the need to focus our attention on Advent during the liturgical season in a renewed way. She is the author of the article, “A Contemporary Spirituality of Advent and Evening Prayer,” in Pastoral Liturgy. She speaks a little bit about what that article is about and suggests different ways people might celebrate the season of Advent amid the bustle of commercialized holiday blitz. For more on Advent this season and ways to celebrate the liturgical period, check out the article, “Advent Resolutions for a New Church Year,” in The Huffington Post.

Listen to the podcast online (streaming)

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Selections from Julianne Wallace’s “Advent Playlist”

“Jesus, Hope of the World”
Deana Light and Paul Tate

“Jesus Christ the Apple Tree”
from the John Rutter “The Christmas Album” sung by Clare College Choir of Cambridge

“Come, Watch and Wait”
Paul Inwood

“Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming”

“People Look East”
arr. James E. Clemens

“Long is Our Winter”

“In God’s Good Time”
Stephen Dean

“God the Father Sends His Angel”
Brian Bisig

“O Come, O Come Emmanuel”
Bebo Norman, Ed Cash and Allen Levi

“Know that the Lord Is Near”
David Haas

Schillebeeckx and the Franciscan View of Humanity

Posted in Franciscan Spirituality with tags , , , on November 29, 2012 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

There are many passages from the writings of the now-late theologian Edward Schillebeeckx that are worthy of reflection. One struck me the other day because it resembled the anthropological view of St. Francis of Assisi (an odd statement, I realize, to compare a great Dominican theologian to the greatest saint and founder of the Franciscans). What is at the core of the similarity between these two thinkers is the primacy of justice, integrity of creation, and solidarity as expressive of human beings living most authentically as God has intended us to live. Francis makes this most obvious in his famous Canticle of the Creatures, which demonstrates the way in which all of creation praises God by being precisely what each aspect of creation was intended to be. When he gets to humanity the goal of authentic human living is summarized in terms of peacemaking, forgiveness, reconciliation, and love. When we do those things we are most human. Here is how Schillebeeckx expresses similar insight:

That human beings are the image of God means that humanity as such is God’s representative. Human beings are God’s image where and when they do justice, respect the integrity of creation, practice solidarity. It can be said that where God reigns, human beings have the right to be human. In their humanity men and women manifest the reign of God in history. And it is men and women who mediate the presence of the kingdom of God. Clearly the kingdom of God is God, the grace of God, the gratuitousness of God mediated through human beings. It is through this that anthropology and soteriology are connected (Schillebeeckx, I am a Happy Theologian, 54).

May we all continue to strive toward being most authentically human.

Photo: File

Lecture This Weekend at UGA

Posted in Advent with tags , , , , on November 29, 2012 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

This weekend I’ll be in Athens, GA to give a lecture titled, “The Coming of Christ in our Lives,” at the University of Georgia Catholic Campus Ministry Center. I’ll be giving this talk twice, at Noon and 7pm on Monday. Also, I’ll be presiding at the masses this weekend at the center. I hope to see you there!

Advent Resolutions for a New Church Year

Posted in Advent, Huffington Post with tags , , , on November 28, 2012 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

The following article first appeared in The Huffington Post on Tuesday November 27, 2012.

Many people are used to imagining countdowns, streamers, champagne, Times Square festivities and the annual appearance of TV’s Dick Clark when they think about a new year. In addition to the parties, many might also anticipate making some sort of new-year’s resolution: eating better, going to the gym, quitting smoking and the like.

If these are some of the ways that women and men of our age think about the coming new year, how do Christians think about the coming new church year?

I would bet that most people don’t think much about the new church year, which, for most Christians, always begins on the First Sunday of Advent, and happens to fall on Dec. 2 this year. My suspicion is that the new church year gets overshadowed by the Thanksgiving holiday that usually closely precedes it and the Christmas-preparation (i.e., shopping) blitz that follows. But we would be wise to take a little more time and pay closer attention to this largely uncelebrated transition, for it is a perfect opportunity for us to reexamine our lives, reassess our priorities, and recommit ourselves to our call as women and men who seek to follow the Gospel.

Those who are Roman Catholics, and those who belong to faith communities that use the common lectionary (which frequently parallels the Catholic cycle of readings), have been hearing Gospel passages in these last few weeks of Ordinary Time that are, I believe, perfect preparatory reflections for those preparing to make some Advent Resolutions.

As the old church year comes to a close, beginning with the middle of October, the Gospel selections have tended to focus on various interactions between Jesus and his disciples (or would-be disciples) who are interested in knowing what it takes to be a good follower of Christ.

Take, for example, the Gospel selection from the Twenty-Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time. We have the account of the wealthy man who approaches Jesus with the question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17-30). At first, Jesus’ response is to reaffirm the second part of the Covenant with Moses: love your neighbor. This is illustrated by the last seven commandments of the Decalogue (you know: you shall not kill, commit adultery, lie, etc.).

When the wealthy man assures Jesus that he has been faithfully observing that part of the Covenant, Jesus then says that all that remains is for him to be faithful to the first part of the Decalogue, the part that focuses on the love of God. The way Jesus expresses this is in terms of the man’s need to sell his many possessions and give his wealth to the poor. At first, and to modern ears, this seems unrelated to the “love of God” portion of one’s faith. That is until one recalls the prohibition against “other gods” or idols. And upon hearing this, the man walked away sad after this encounter because, as the Gospel of Mark tells us, “he had many possessions.”

Lots of us miss the connection here, but Jesus links the unseen actions and presumed priorities of the wealthy man with his apparent lack of authenticity in following the first part of the Decalogue. What does this man, what do we have to do to inherit eternal life? Make sure that (a) we love our brothers and sisters and (b) keep our priorities in order, not placing wealth, power, status and other idols before God.

This message is emphasized again the following week in our cycle of readings when Jesus tells his disciples to be the servants of all, that the last will be first, and so on (Mark 10:35-45). The logic of Christianity is not that of the world, it is not the “individual comes first,” and it is certainly not that of our own choosing. Each of the Gospel passages in the weeks leading to the new church year bring this contrast between the priorities of the world and the priorities of God’s Kingdom into strong relief. As Jesus says to Pilate in the Gospel passage for the last Sunday of the Church year: “My Kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).

What better time is there in our contemporary market-driven culture to pause and reflect on these questions than during that time between Thanksgiving and Christmas? The church’s new year comes at a perfect moment for us to take seriously Jesus’s message to his disciples about reassessing priorities and Christian discipleship.

It is in this spirit that I want to suggest we all take the beginning of the new church year this week as an opportunity to make some “Advent resolutions.”

While many people take the transition to a new calendar year as a time to examine health and wellness habits of the fitness, work, financial, mental and emotional variety, the new church year could be a time for us to similarly examine our spiritual and prayer habits.

How do I pray? How do I demonstrate love of God and neighbor? What gets in my way of living the Gospel life: the desire for money, power, success, control or the like? When I think of Jesus’ response to the wealthy man and put myself in his place, do I walk away sad because I cannot conceive of letting go of the idols of my life?

Perhaps our new church year or Advent resolutions might take the form of developing our relationship with God like we would with other loved ones by dedicating more time to be alone with God. We might set a little time aside each day to pray, meditate or do some other spiritual practice. We might dedicate some of our energy and resources to serve others in doing good works, volunteering, mentoring or some other form of expressing our love of neighbor. We might commit ourselves to being more conscious of the way we look at the world, view creation, use earthly resources, and support or resist violence in our own lives.

There is so much that can be done, but we have to be willing to actually do these things. Will we let such resolutions go the way of so many of our new-calendar-year’s resolutions? Or will we take seriously the liturgical cycle that provides us with the scriptural reminders, the prayerful space, and the Gospel model for making and sticking with what we set out to do as recommitted Christians in our age?

What will your Advent resolution be this new church year? And will you stick with it?

Photo: Stock

Vatican II, Inculturation and What the Church Learns from the World

Posted in Vatican II with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 27, 2012 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

Among the many important insights that arose from the Second Vatican Council, one of the more timely is the recognition that the church has not simply been a self-contained and distinct civilization or institution from the “rest of the world,” but has always been a part of the world. Additionally, the church has benefited and, even more strikingly, has needed the culture, philosophy, and traditions of the world in which it exists. This is a wonderfully insightful development given the state of the so-called church-world relationship prior to the ecumenical council. Whether theologically, or otherwise in theory, the church understood itself as apart from the world, it pragmatically acted as such. Here I mean the church in the literal sense as the Body of Christ, which is — as Vatican II put it, among other ways — the People of God. The baptized acted as if the church, its ministers, and so forth, were quite different from the quotidian experience of their lives and work. This was perpetuated by the attitudes and dispositions of the church’s leadership in those years.

And what is troubling, in my view, is that there is an undercurrent of similar attitudes percolating in our own day. There are women and men, especially within the ranks of the church’s leadership in certain sectors of our society, that feel as though the church should be “purer,” more isolated, and set apart from “the world.” As the great theologian Edward Schillebeeckx once said, the idea of a “pure church” is a heresy. Those who maintain such a view need to realize that the teaching of the church’s magisterium, here in the documents of Vatican II, especially Gaudium et Spes, confirm Schillebeeckx’s observation. The church and the world are inseparable and, further, the church needs the world, as we read here:

Just as it is important for the world to recognize the church as a social reality and agent in history, so the church also is aware of how much it has received from the history and development of the human race.

The experience of past centuries, the advances in the sciences and the treasures hidden in the various forms of human culture, which disclose human nature more completely and indicate new ways to the truth, are of benefit also to the church. From the beginning of its history it has leaned to express Christ’s message in the concepts and languages of various peoples, and it has also tried to throw light on it through the wisdom of the philosophers, aiming so far as was proper to suit the gospel to the grasp of everyone as well as to expectations of the wise. This adaptation in preaching the revealed word should remain the law of all evangelization. In this way, in every nation, the capacity to express Christ’s message in its own fashion is stimulated and at the same time a fruitful interchange is encouraged between the church and various cultures.

To develop such an exchange, especially in a time characterized by rapid change and a growing variety in ways of thought, the church has particular need of those who live in the world, whether they are believers or not, and who are familiar with its various institutions and disciplines and understand them intimately. It is for God’s people as a whole, with the help of the Holy Spirit, and especially for pastors and theologians, to listen to the various voices of our day, discerning them and interpreting them, and to evaluate them in the light of the divine word, so that the revealed truth can be increasingly appropriated, better understood and more suitably expressed (Gaudium et Spes no. 44).

Hopefully, in returning to the documents of the Second Vatican Council as we mark the half-century that has passed since this great moment in the history of the church and world we can renew our vision of what it means to live the Gospel in our own day.

There is a clear call here for the validation of various cultures, philosophies, and ways of thinking. There is value in the thought and practices of people throughout the world, no matter how different those ways of being-in-the-world might appear alongside the Euro-normative traditions we generally associate with Catholicism since the middle ages. What can we do to live this truth out in our own lives, communities, and universal church?

Photo: Stock

A Very Short Prayer from Merton

Posted in Thomas Merton with tags , , on November 26, 2012 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM


My God, I pray better to You by breathing.
I pray better to You by walking than by talking.

— Thomas Merton

On Kings, Kingdoms and Worlds

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on November 25, 2012 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

Today is marks the last Sunday in the regular church year. Next week, the First Sunday of Advent (I know, when did time fly by so quickly?!), is the transition into the next church year — the “New Year’s Eve” of the Liturgical cycle! But before we start thinking about the coming new church year, I think today’s Gospel selection is well-worth considering as the last proclamation of the Good News for this current year. It comes from the end of the Gospel of John where Pilate is interrogating Jesus during his impromptu trial before the Roman Governor. In response to the question, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus explains: “My Kingdom does not belong to this world” (John 18:36).

For us to consider are two aspects of Jesus’s response, among the many things on which we could reflect from this set of readings. First, there is this business about a Kingdom and a king. Most readers will inevitably think of medieval Britain or the current Saudi monarchies, but Jesus’s response is not at all in the realm of these earthly domains (hence his “not of this world” line).

What is really alluded to here is the Hebrew notion of the malkuth YHWH, the “Reigning of God” (or in the Greek: basileia tou theou). This eschatological image is not “reigning” like Queen Elizabeth II reigns in England, nor is it the dictatorial monarchies of centuries past, but instead has to do with the actualization of God’s will on earth. In other words, it is an expression of what God has intended from all eternity in the creation event, yet because of our finitude and hubris we have not  lived up to our personal and communal vocations to live in the world as if God were reigning. Note the our, meaning human — there are very serious theological questions still open about whether the rest of creation could be implicated in our sinfulness.

My guess, following Francis of Assisi’s notion of the rest of creation’s ability to be what it was intended to be and therefore still able to praise God naturally, is: no, only humanity is responsible here for the stalling of sorts of the basileia tou theou, which is why humanity is the so-called linchpin of salvation. The rest of the created order, as one might flippantly put it, is waiting for you and I (i.e., “humanity”) to get its act together.

What Jesus is talking about with Pilate is a revelation, yet again as he had throughout his life, preaching, and deeds, of what the in-breaking of God’s reign looks like. Therefore, it really bears no resemblance to the worldly conceptualization of control, power, might, authority, and the like — all of which a Roman Governor would have naturally associated with this discussion.

The “other world” is not (pace Augustine) some platonic, actual, and ideal “other world,” but is instead another sense of logic or wisdom against which the logic and wisdom of “this world” stands in contrast. God’s reign, as Jesus demonstrates, does not align with any of the earthly conceptualizations of what it means to be king. So, Christ the King is a reminder — here on this last day of the church year — that what it therefore means for us to be “subjects” or “disciples” of such a king has to do with continually keeping in check the logic and wisdom of the world and instead becoming the servants of all, putting others first, giving voice to the voiceless, prioritizing the needs of the marginalized, visiting the imprisoned, clothing the naked, allowing the last to be first, loving the unlovable, forgiving the unforgivable, and so on and so forth.

These acts, as Jesus lived and modeled them, are the signs of the coming Kingdom — the coming realization of all humanity that this is what God intends for us and how God has always intended us to live.

To talk about Christ the King is to talk about what it means for us to be Christian in a world saturated with the lust for power and the greed for wealth. It means to give everything up so as to inherit the kingdom, to become the servant of all so as to be the greatest among the disciples, and it means be to be like Jesus, the fullest revelation of God, who gives his life for all.

Long live the King!

Photo: Stock
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