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Celebrating Earth Day 2016

Posted in Social Justice, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on April 22, 2016 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

earthEvery April 22 since 1970 we have celebrated Earth Day, a commemoration and day dedicated to activism on behalf of the environment. Founded by US Senator Gaylord Nelson, it arose in the wake of the peace and civil rights movements of the late 1960s and Nelson’s own dismay at the pollution caused by an oil spill along the coast of Santa Barbara, CA.

Since its founding, Earth Day has grown to be celebrated across the United States and abroad (although there are also other days internationally that likewise draw out attention to environmental issues and care for creation). Additionally, a nonprofit organization named Earth Day Network was formed to assist in the promotion and organization of this annual event. It has proposed specific, direct action each year, suggesting that people plant trees in honor of Earth Day 2016.

As people of faith, especially in this first Earth Day after the release of Pope Francis’s groundbreaking encyclical letter Laudato Si, we should be particularly attentive to our call to act in solidarity with what the pope has called our Sister who “now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her” (LS no. 2).

Our Christian faith challenges us to be aware of the injustice and sin we perpetuate and for which we are responsible in the harm we cause other-than-human creation by our deliberate actions, our complicity in structures of environmental degradation and climate change, and our sins of omission when we choose to ignore the plight that faces what Pope Francis calls “our common home.”

I encourage everybody to pray, to take action, and to be more aware of our inherent relationship with the rest of creation today.

In terms of prayer, consider reflecting on the prayer Pope Francis offers at the end of Laudato Si

In terms of action, there are many different ways to get involved. For example, tomorrow I’m participating in a road race that is raising money for the World Wildlife Foundation, which is an organization that works to prevent species extinction worldwide. There are also opportunities to engage in political action and gatherings of solidarity. Consider visiting the Catholic Climate Movement or the Franciscan Action Network, both of which are just two of the many Catholic organizations that promote justice and the integrity of creation. There are many, many events around the country and world — consider getting involved in a little or big way.

Finally, in terms of being more aware of our inherent relationship with all of creation, consider reading the Genesis accounts of creation in books 1 and 2 and reflecting on the way, especially in Genesis 2, that human beings are formed from and as part of the earth. We are literally ha-adamah, made “from the earth” or “earthlings.” The natural sciences only affirm this reality, showing that human beings are physically made of the same material as everything else in the cosmos.

As the Franciscan St. Bonaventure acclaimed, all of creation is a “vestige” (bears an imprint) of the Creator, reflecting the presence of God to us. May we open our eyes to see God in our world and recognize the Spirit that gives life to all creation!

 

 

Exciting News: New Book Coming Fall 2016!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on February 12, 2016 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

Horan cover finalI’m delighted to be able to share some exciting news with you all. The title, cover, and pre-order information for my next book are now available. Due out in October is my latest book titled, God is Not Fair and other Reasons For Gratitude (Franciscan Media). In the coming months you’ll hear more about the book and its contents, but for now know that there are three basic themes: faith and culture, meaning of scripture for us today, and contemporary Christian living. I hope you have a chance to check it out and perhaps even pre-order it. Stay tuned for more information!

When I Went to Punxsutawney for Groundhog’s Day (02/02/02)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on February 2, 2016 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

Fourteen years ago I did something that only a crazy group of college journalists would do — get in a car with no money, call just a few hours ahead for press credentials for an editor, reporter and photographer, and drive to Punxsutawney, Pa., for Groundhog’s Day on the 116th staging of the event, which also happened to be the curious date 02/02/02! Thanks to the magic of the internet the news editor on that trip, Matt Dabrowski, posted this story written by the reporter, Mike Trask, for our college newspaper The BonaVenture back in 2002. I don’t have access to the images I took that night/morning, but was able to find some photos someone else took that night that happened to capture me up in the press section near the stage (I’m the one wearing a red coat with a blue winter hat (look along the baseline of the stage and you’ll intersect my head to the right of center — click the image for a bigger view). For your enjoyment, here’s the story as it still appears on the BV web archive. As you’ll tell from the feature story, it was an adventure and nothing like Bill Murray’s famous movie of the same name. My favorite line of the whole piece is the retelling of our 3:00 am visit to McDonalds and WalMart for supplies. Enjoy and Happy Groundhog’s Day!

Punxsutawney ‘Craze’

By Mike Trask
Staff Writer

PUNXSUTAWNEY, Pa. – Saturday morning Punxsutawney Phil, the world-famous weather forecasting groundhog, emerged from his oak-tree stump in front of about 40,000 rapid chanting fans.

It’s the end of a long night in this town of around 7,000 people, which expands to nearly six times its size every Feb. 2. The locals seem to not care, unless they are members of The Inner Circle, the planners and organizers of the event. Three gas-station attendants told us they never went to Gobbler’s Knob, site of the event.

“I watched it on TV once, seems kind of silly,” quipped one woman. She gave us (Dan Horan, assistant photography director; Matt Dabrowski, news editor; and myself) a coupon for a free sub, probably out of pity.

A member of the Punx-sutawney Lions Clubs stated, “I never go up to The Knob. I just sit around and wait for you guys to come around with your (note) pads.”

Nevertheless, people come in droves. Phil’s day is something of a combination between a rock concert, an Independence Day celebration and a religious revival.

Roadtrip

The drive to Punxy takes a little less than three hours if you don’t obey speed laws. It is 109 miles from Allegany, according to Mapquest.com. Along the way we had our first bit of excitement.

In a town called Ridgway, Pa., we ran across someone in a white Dodge Acclaim with New York license plates and a Geneseo sticker in the back window. In the parking lot of Sheet’s, the Pennsylvania version of Uni-Mart, three young gentlemen started shouting gibberish at us. It was one of those moments that made you think, “Oh boy. What could happen tonight?”

Then, only 16 miles from Punxy, we had problems. On Route 119 a car had wrecked. People had been thrown from the vehicle. Immediately we felt a sense of dread. It gave me that sinking feeling in my stomach. Thoughts raced through my head. I had been driving about 80 mph and that guilty, that-could-be-me feeling raced around in my head. A report in The Courier-Express, a central Pennsylvania daily newspaper, said a man from Kansas died and three others were injured.

Police officers, fire fighters and other rescue workers rushed to the side of the road. Traffic backed up. We were the first car that had been stopped and, after about 15 minutes, police directed us on a detour. A cop shouted something like, “Go left. Go left again. Go to Sykesville and you can get back on the 119.”

The craziness began. If you’ve never been to Sykesville, Pa., you aren’t missing anything. If you ever travel through it, don’t blink. The road we took could’ve been confused with something from “The Blair Witch Project.” The one-lane road had no name that we could find, no lights and made me wonder if it was the end of the Earth. It weaved in and out of woods through a dense fog. Somehow, maybe by luck, maybe by an act of God, we emerged onto the 119 and continued our journey. We chalked it up to one of those experiences you inevitably encounter on a spur-of-the- moment road trip.

Arrival

We arrived in Punxy at 11 p.m. Friday night, over seven hours before Phil’s scheduled forecast. People littered the streets of the quaint town. Lines formed outside most of the bars. More than once we saw vomit on the sidewalk. The town simply cannot hold the number of people here.

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Christmas: The coming of the Poor, Refugee, Prince of Peace

Posted in Homilies, Social Justice, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on December 24, 2015 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

flight-to-egypt-iconThere is often a lot of attention given to the “reason for the season” or the admonition to “keep Christ in Christmas,” but far-too-little attention is paid to who this Christ is and what it means for us.

Pope Francis, in his Christmas night homily, explains that we live in a world that is oversaturated with the self-centeredness that comes with an over-busy lifestyle and a way of being in the world that leaves us “drunk” with the need to acquire more without thought about the cost, without concern for others. Pope Francis explains:

In a society so often intoxicated by consumerism and hedonism, wealth and extravagance, appearances and narcissism, this Child calls us to act soberly, in other words, in a way that is simple, balanced, consistent, capable of seeing and doing what is essential. In a world which all too often is merciless to the sinner and lenient to the sin, we need to cultivate a strong sense of justice, to discern and to do God’s will.

I believe that the way we come to this strong sense of justice, mercy, and discernment of God’s will is by remembering the one whose birth we celebrate today. The Christ who enters our world as one of us is a poor, refugee, prince of peace!

Christ is poor. In Paul’s letter to the Philippians we are reminded of whose birth it is we celebrate on Christmas day — the birth of the God who empties God’s self to become like us. God surrenders at every turn all that comes with being divine, all-powerful, all-anything to be a vulnerable, humble, child. As we hear in tonight’s Gospel, Christ is born to an unwed young women, a peasant teen whose life was nothing of luxury or comfort. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Christ’s poverty was, in a cosmic sense, voluntary. But in a contextual sense, we was nonetheless born into a world that had no room for him.

Christ’s poverty should call us to remember the suffering of those who likewise are born into this world without the support and care, the resources and privileges that so many of us can give thanks for having. Christ is the one who stands by them. Christ is the one who calls us to do likewise.

Christ is a Refugee. How quickly we forget what we read in the very next chapter of Matthew’s Gospel. In Chapter Two we read about the magi’s visitation and Herod’s call for the slaughter of children (the event we commemorate in just three days, December 28th). Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus seek refuge in Egypt, crossing the border into an unknown land, fleeing the violence and terror of their homeland. Christ is not only a refugee who fled violence, but was also a Cosmic refugee who, as we read in the Prologue to John’s Gospel, was rejected by his own. Elsewhere in the Gospels we hear how Jesus is abandoned, rejected, and dismissed by his fellows including family, friends, and disciples.

Christ’s status as and experience of being a refugee should call us to be mindful of those who, like the infant Jesus, flee violence and terror in our world today. Christ enters the world unwelcome and stands in solidarity with those who are abandoned, rejected, and dismissed. We must welcome those refugees seeking protection and safety in our world today. In a time when political rhetoric in this country has ramped up fear and xenophobia, we should stand as Christians who celebrate the Christ who is himself a refugee and welcome refugees.

Christ is the Prince of Peace. He came into the world bringing, as we pray in the Eucharistic prayer, peace — a peace that the world neither knows nor can give. In the face of violence and fear, Christ always proclaims a message calling the world to “be not afraid,” to “turn the other cheek,” to “love one’s enemies.”  The message of the Christ who enters our world as the Prince of Peace is one that condemns violence and retaliation, who calls us to turn swords into plowshares, who surrenders his life for the sake of others.

Christ who is the Prince of Peace calls us to resist the violent rhetoric we hear in the world today. As politicians and commentators stoke the fire of fear and terror, the message of the Prince of Peace is one that calls us to respond to threats with love, to surrender our thirst for power and control, to be more like Christ who sought only to do God’s will in terms of reconciliation, forgiveness, and healing.

This Christmas is a time not only to celebrate with family and friends, but a time to remember whose birth it is that we celebrate and what it means for us to call ourselves “Christians” in turn.

May you have a blessed Christmas and celebrate the coming of the poor, refugee, prince of peace by your words and actions!

Photo: File

 

O Come Emmanuel: Everyday Incarnation

Posted in Advent, O Antiphons, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on December 23, 2015 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

incarnationO Emmanuel, king and lawgiver, desire of the nations, savior of all people, come and set us free, Lord our God.

There is only one Incarnation, but there are infinite signs of emmanuel.

I am struck today by the text from Isaiah that is the source for this antiphon: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign; the young woman, pregnant and about to bear a son, shall name him Emmanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). The name of the coming Lord was foretold, but it wasn’t a proper name so much as a description of what God was about to do and what God has intended from all eternity.

The pregnant young woman, Mary of Nazareth, was a sign that fits the description of Isaiah, but she hasn’t been nor remains the only sign of emmanuel, God-with-us. If we are able to open the eyes of our hearts to see the presence of God around us, we know too can see signs of a divine love so powerful that it could not be contained simply to Godself, but must overflow into creation and in the ultimate expression of love in God’s becoming one with us.

Some years ago I wrote an article titled, “A Newborn and St. Bonaventure’s The Tree of Life as Incarnational Encounters.” In it I talked about how the experience of meeting and holding my godson, the firstborn of my two best friends from college, had been for me an experience of the Incarnation, of emmanuel. I saw reflected in the preciousness of this new life the reality of a mystery beyond words, a mystery that lies deep within each of us in the very contingent existence we experience. We didn’t have to be. Nothing did. Yet, God loved each of us and all of creation into existence.

In addition to experiencing the Incarnation in meeting this newborn child, I also recalled how St. Bonaventure in his treatise The Tree of Life offers a mystical reflection that would later serve as the foundation for and become popularized by Ignatian imaginative prayer and reflection. Bonaventure invites his readers to enter into the Gospel and imagine themselves there at the crib, alongside Christ, at the cross, and to experience what is being experienced in particular moments of God’s history with us as one like us.

Bonaventure’s reflections on the nativity are particularly striking for their vividness and beauty. His is a guided meditation: “Do not now turn away from the brilliance of that star in the east which guides you. Become a companion of the holy kings… adore, confess and praise this humble God lying in a manger.” He then invites us to “embrace that divine manger; press your lips upon and kiss the boy’s feet.” To kiss the newborn baby’s feet like parents admiring the new life they’ve co-created is something that has always stayed with me. It is real and lovely and far-less-abstract than talking about “keeping ‘Christ’ in Christmas.”

This sort of reflection helps me to think about the everyday experiences –- like new parents with their child or the love between partners or the beauty of creation –- that helps reveal and remind us of emmanuel. Christmas then is not simply a once-a-year time for presence and songs and “keeping ‘Christ’ in Christmas,” but is the starkest reminder of how Christ is already in Christmas and the day after Christmas and the day after that!

How better could we celebrate what we believe about the Incarnation than shifting our awareness to the presence of God-with-us still? May this Christmas be the beginning of putting “Christ” back in the “everyday!” And may we all bear witness to the infinite signs of presence and coming of Emmanuel.

Photo: Stock
Originally published in 2013

O King of Nations: Word Made Flesh for Us

Posted in O Antiphons, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on December 22, 2015 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

O King of all nations, the only joy of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of humankind, come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust.

While there are certainly roots for this antiphon in the prophecy of Isaiah, I feel more compelled to reflect on some passages in the New Testament that this antiphon alludes to in its incarnational language. The first is the early Christian hymn found in the Letter to the Philippians.

Christ Jesus, Who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.

Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to death,
even death on a cross.

Because of this, God greatly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend,
of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father. (Phil 2:5b-11)

The Incarnation is, as the antiphon reminds us, the ‘keystone’ or centerpiece of creation. In the birth of Christ God unites creation with God’s very self in a way that points toward the eternal divine plan — that all creation return back to God. God desires, it would seem, nothing more than to be in relationship with us.

It is through the Incarnation (life), death and resurrection that God reconciles all things to God’s self. It is not simply the crucifixion, as some morbidly disturbed individuals wish to insist. Instead, it is God’s entrance into the economy of salvation, as part of creation, that is the unifying element. God so loved the world…

Let’s also look at Ephesians 2:13-18. Here we sense some more of the Christocentricity of God’s plan, while we also recall that it is precisely Christ who stands at the center of salvation.

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have become near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, he who made both one and broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through his flesh, abolishing the law with its commandments an legal claims,that he might create in himself one new person in place of the two, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile both with God, in one body, through the cross, putting that enmity to death by it. He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near, for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

Let us not lose sight of the meaning of Christmas, the true meaning — that God became one like us. This very act, planned as it was from all eternity (sorry Augustine, no Felix Culpa), is the high-point of salvation history. It is both a sign and an action; a sign of God’s plan for creation and the action of bringing that creation back to God.

By becoming a creature, fashioned from the dust, God saves us.

Photo: Stock
Originally Published in 2010

 

O Radiant Dawn: The Circle of Life

Posted in Advent, O Antiphons, Uncategorized with tags , , , on December 21, 2015 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

earthsunriseO Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: Come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

The catchiness of Disney’s The Lion King‘s opening song notwithstanding, I’m thinking of a circle of life having to do with a little more substance in light of today’s antiphon: “O Radiant Dawn, Splendor of Eternal Light.” Light itself is the source of life, at least that’s the case in this world. Without our Sun, there would be no life nor would there be an ecosystem capable of sustaining the life that finds its origins in that gaseous star closest to us. Each dawn marks the cycle, the circle, of light and darkness, of life and death, that completes the circle of life on this planet: Photosynthesis, consumption, decomposition, metabolization, regrowth, and so on.

Like all other living creatures — human and nonhuman alike — we are dependent on light to live. But like the bread about which Jesus speaks in the Gospel, we do not live on planetary light alone!

There is another light that dispels the darkness of death, a light that shows the way to go, a light that brings another kind of life. This is Christ the Light, the God of Light. What is interesting about what constitutes the Radiant Dawn, the Light of Life, is that this light is also the sun of justice. The life that Jesus Christ came to bring, that life that he desires us to have and live to the fullest, is a life of justice and peace. It is a life that is perhaps best reflected in the words and actions of Pope Francis when he calls our attention to the plight of the poor and downtrodden, the marginalized and forgotten, the voiceless and those thrown away.

The circle of life calls us to move in a direction away from the darkness of the night brought about by injustice and abuse, suffering and subjugation, to recognize that only in addressing these sins — individually and socially — can we begin to live in the light toward which we are called. This is why we celebrate Christmas. This is why we celebrate what the Hebrew Prophets and John the Baptist foretold. This is what it means to call ourselves Christians.

The imagery of light is used frequently throughout the Gospels to describe what it means to announce the Kingdom of God. We are called to reflect that light, which comes from the sun of justice, such that we can shine God’s love, mercy, forgiveness, and good news on others. We don’t do this with empty words and vapid platitudes, but with our feet and our hands and our actions.

Today’s antiphon includes a petition on our behalf: “Come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death,” but it implies a response that we might not want to hear — a response, I believe, that most of us usually ignore.

The response as laid out in Scripture and modeled by the holy lives of saints and women and men of good will over the centuries is that the light of justice only shines when we are willing to be bearers of that light. Christ is not a helicopter savior who pops down miraculously here and there to help this or that person. Christ is the fullest revelation of who God is and simultaneously reveals to us who we are. We are the bearers of that light, we are those whose lives are nourished and sustained by the sun of justice, we are the ones who must do something.

Photo: Stock
Originally published in 2013
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