Trinity Sunday

The teaching of the Christian church on the holy Trinity is considered to be possibly the most sublime doctrine of divine revelation. Most churches consider that belief in the Trinity, that is three persons in one God, is the deciding factor that determines whether  a given church is a Christian church or not. Belief systems that do not embrace the Trinitarian doctrine, of necessity do not believe in the divinity of Christ and therefore are not really considered Christian,however much they may lay claim to the name.

The word Trinity comes from two Latin words tri and unity which simply means three in one, our theological way of expressing the three persons in the one God. This teaching is a mystery and therefore is not completely open to total understanding on our part. This is not really a problem for us as we readily acknowledge that God is beyond our understanding. Nonetheless the tri unity of God is revealed to us in the Scriptures and therefore has meaning for us and we should seek some practical understanding of it because of  our faith in the Trinity.

In fact, however, what do you understand about the doctrine of the Trinity? How would you explain it to a child? To an unbeliever? Even to a fellow Christian?

I recall some 30 years ago I was invited for dinner to the home of a large extended Muslim family in the Gaza Strip. The men were all seated in a large circle on the floor of the dining room. I was seated next to the ancient patriarch of the family. In the middle of the meal (I was on the point of devouring a large piece of succulent roast lamb) he turned to me and said, “What is this Trinity all about?”.

I greatly fear that I was not adequate to the occasion and subsequently wished I had at least the presence of mind of Saint Patrick who, in a similar situation, simply said the Trinity was like the three leaf clover, that is three leaves one clover, three persons one God. But even so, how practical, how meaningful is that simple explanation?

60 years ago, in the seminary we spent an entire semester on the theology of the Trinity. It had little practical meaning for me then and today I am forced to examine what meaning it has had for me since. My response to the seminary course on the Trinity was that it was God giving us a private glimpse of what he might look like behind the shower curtain.

In the past 60 years my understanding of the Trinity has been enhanced by several significant experiences. The first was at the death of my eldest sister, Helen. As I stood by her deathbed saying the prayers for the dying these words were spoken to my very heart: Depart, Christian soul in the name of the Father who created you, in the name of the son who redeemed you, and in the name of the Holy Spirit who sanctifies you. This is very practical, isn’t it? Our creation, our redemption, and our sanctification.

My second significant, practical experience of the Trinity came through my reading of Julian of Norwich. In her wonderful book, The Revelations of Divine Love, the Lady Julian speaks of the power of the Father, the wisdom of the Son, and the benevolent love of the Holy Spirit. She also says that where we experience one person of the Trinity, for example, the incarnation of the son in Jesus of Nazareth, we also experience the other two persons of the Trinity. This is why Jesus could say, “He who sees me sees the Father.” And” I will not leave you orphans but I will send to you the Paraclete, the Spirit of truth, who will remind you of all that I have taught.” And so, Julian reminds us, that the presence of Jesus in our lives today and the presence of the Holy Spirit and the Father is one and the same.

So as a practical understanding, as we are gathered here this morning as the church, Jesus is present in our midst and so is the Father and the Holy Spirit. As we hear the words of the Scriptures inspired by the Holy Spirit so we hear the words of Jesus and the Father. And finally as we shall be recreated in the one body of Christ through the reception of holy Communion, so we are re-created as sons and daughters of the eternal Father in the love and benevolence of his Holy Spirit. Blessed be the holy and undivided Trinity now and forever! 

May you be happy,
May you be free,
May you be loving,
May you be loved.
Father William

March 13, 2016

There is a very solid teaching in the Christian Church about the inspiration of the holy Bible. Within this teaching there are several different traditions, all of them complementary to one another. In one tradition the emphasis is on the writer himself or herself of the biblical books. Another tradition emphasizes the effect of inspiration on the words themselves as the Bible is considered the word of God. Yet another understanding emphasizes the work of the Holy Spirit on the reader or the listener to the holy word. The strongest inclination today is to emphasize the power of the spirit on the reader and the listener. This approach brings the inspired teachings into the present and into our own personal lives. We are not so much concerned with the writers of the books of the Bible or exactly how the words may be inspired but what the Spirit is saying to the churches today. We are the church and so the Spirit speaks to us.

Before we get into that kind of inspiration specifically, I would like to speak about another understanding of the Christian church. We could say that this is a parallel kind of inspiration to the Bible. It is a very real and important way in which God reveals himself or herself to our world and therefore to us today. This parallel inspiration, if you will, is known as evolutionary theology. Evolutionary theology is based on the understanding that evolution is no longer a theory but an established fact, even though there yet remains divergent understandings of the precise process and message of this evolution.

It has always been understood and accepted that God reveals himself in his creation. Apart from pantheism, Christians have always seen vestiges or footprints of God in his creation. Mystics and poets as well as theologians have always shown great enthusiasm for the image of God in the beauties of nature, the power of a storm, the ordered flow of days and seasons and especially in the intelligence, freedom and destiny of the human race.

According to evolutionary theology,God has been revealing himself since the beginning of time in the ordered direction of the movement of the cosmos since it’s very beginning, whenever and however that occurred. This particular imaging of God by its very nature is evolving, is moving forward toward a goal, a destiny to something ever greater and ever newer. The present state of evolution, the circumstances and situation in which we find ourselves in relation to the cosmos, the universe, the planet Earth, our nation, and our personal lives is actually in transition, if you will. There is really no way in which we can state that the presence situation of reality, as we know it, is the summit, the goal, or the final perfection of God’s hidden plan for creation. We are told that Christ is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. But this means that he is also the beta,delpha,gamma, epsilon, etc. and everything in between. This in-between is where we are located in the present progress of evolution. It may very well be that we are much closer to the Alpha, the beginning, than we are to the Omega, the end. It seems to me that there is a great deal the human race must do, a vast evolutionary process before we can say that Christ is present in creation in his fullness and that God is all in all. The important thing that we must understand is that this evolutionary process is a revelation of God and God’s plan which is parallel to and of equal importance to God’s plan as revealed in the Bible. It is in the dimension of our evolutionary development that the Holy Spirit whom Christ has sent to be our comforter and who will remind us of all that he has taught us is present and active in our lives, our world, our cosmos.

Well now, let’s return back to the Bible and  todays wonderful readings. In the first reading we have heard God say to us through the prophet Isaiah, “See, I am doing something new. Now it springs forth. Do you not perceive it?” As God’s inspired word the teachings of the prophet Isaiah are not something that belongs to the Old Testament, to the Jews, to the past. This message is repeated in the book of Revelation where Jesus says to us, “Behold, I make all things new.” This is the very heart and meaning of the progress of evolution. It is not a dead end, it is not something that only belongs to the far off and unforeseen future, it is active, graced, benevolent, providential and very real in our world and in our personal lives. God is alive and well and active in and among us.

In the second reading, from the letter to the Philippians St. Paul says, “Forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit toward the goal of God’s upward calling in Christ Jesus.” This really is a statement of our cooperation, yours and mine, with the ongoing process of God’s revelation through evolution. It is a part of our lives and our lives are part of its progression. It is something to put joy in our hearts, enthusiasm in our work, and the power of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, in every facet of our lives.

In the Gospel reading we hear of the woman taken in adultery and brought to Jesus. His accusers say to him, “The law of Moses commands us to stone such a woman. What do you say?” The response of Jesus is revolutionary, or I should say, evolutionary. It marks a significant step in the moral progression of human understanding in terms of  forgiveness. The old law, that out of justice and works, must give way to the new law that of love and faith. In his sermon on the mount ,Jesus repeats this moral evolution many times when he says, “You have heard it said, but I say to you…” The human race has a long way to go to understand the real meaning that Jesus Christ, the living Word of God, has in our movement toward our goal.

We have, each one of us, a place and a unique contribution to make to this evolution. In our world, as St. Teresa of Avila tells us, Christ has no hands but ours, no feet but ours, no heart ,no love but ours. We are the evolutionary way in which the Holy Spirit of God now inspires, directs, and accomplishes the fullness of God’s plan.

May you be happy,

May you be free,

May you be loving,

May you be loved.

 

Father William Meninger

January 17, 2016

In the second reading today, St. Paul tells us that each one of us is given the gift of the spirit in our own way. I would like to speak a little bit today about how the spirit was given in her own special way to a wonderful young Carmelite nun, St. Therese of Lisieux.

St. Therese, also known as The Little Flower is one of the most extraordinary mystics in the church. She was Carmelite nun belonging to the same order as her namesake, St. Teresa of Avila. She has probably had more influence on the church at large than any other saint except possibly St. Francis of Assisi.

A short time before she died in the Carmelite convent of Lisieux, at the request of the prioress who was her blood sister, Therese wrote to the story of her life. This was published privately for a limited audience after her death but soon spread throughout the universal church and has become one of the great spiritual classics. (A magnificent audio rendition of her autobiography, The Story of a Soul, can be found free by googling Internet Archives.)

Therese is best known for what has been called her Little Way. Like Julian of Norwich ,she believed that the people of her day lived too much in fear of God as a judge. She saw God rather as a loving father and maintained that the God who became a little child cannot possibly be someone to be feared. Rather he was to be recognized in the intimacy of his love which was manifested to us in Jesus.

Therese recognizes that she could never be perfect. She was indeed hypersensitive to her little faults and imperfections. She realized she could never approach the heroic sanctity of the great saints. She was only able to do little things for God. She realized that God, as a loving father/mother, would be very pleased with the little things of his child.

Her Little Way consisted and a commitment to the small, menial tasks of her life in the convent and to her relationships with the nuns of her community and the people she would contact through them. Herein would lie her sanctity. Her Little Way was simple and direct but called for strong determination and fortitude. She resolved to do everything, all the little insignificant tasks in the convent, for the love of God. She would love everyone she came in contact with and make a special effort to be loving to difficult or unlovable people whom she recognized as being the ones who needed love the most.

This is the appeal of St. Therese to the world even today. Everyone is capable of following her Little Way. It is a way of trial and error, of darkness and light, of joy and suffering but most of all, of loving in the concrete situation of one’s daily life. It is a paradox, but this little way of practicing heroic virtue is a way that is open to everyone. It does not involve dying for the faith, leaving one’s home to live among the poor, taking vows of poverty and obedience or becoming a missionary in Africa. It is a little way that is carried out in the everyday situation of daily life. The foundation of this little way is a very simple, honest acknowledgment of one’s own weaknesses and inadequacies. This is not, in the face of it ,a practice of self abasement but rather simply facing the truth about oneself. This by definition is the virtue of humility.

The next step in the spiritual journey or the Little Way, is to try to love. This love must be concrete, personal, individual and express itself in the small and large incidence of daily life and in every relationship experienced in that life. This love must be honest and real. It is not a matter of emotion or feeling but is an act of the will sometimes made in situations that can be tolerated only by sheer willpower or, rather, only by goodwill. It must be practiced in the smallest details of daily relationships especially when one’s inclination is to be impatient, cold, indifferent, unsympathetic or even angry.

Love begins when nothing is expected in return. Just as we are called to love God for his own sake and not for his gifts, so we are called to love one another in the same way. This is the way that God loves us and the only way we can really demonstrate love for God on this earth. If you do not love your brother and sister whom you can see, how can you love God you do not see?

In accordance with humility this love must be done honestly which means that many times we will fail. However we will see failure only as the opportunity to begin all over again even as Jesus and the psalmist tell us, seven times a day. This is not a question of “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” It is an issue of success being found in the very trying and trying again.

I will conclude with a quote from St. Therese’s Story of a Soul:

“Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word, always doing the smallest thing but doing it all for love.”

 

May you be happy,
May you be free,
May you be loving,
May you be loved.
Father William Meninger

Christmas Greetings

December 19, 2015

Fourth Sunday of Advent

 

Dear friends,

This year I am sending you the homily which I am giving for the Sunday before Christmas as my Christmas greetings. I am also attaching my schedule for 2016 for your information. Please receive the sentiments of this homily as an expression of my prayers and wishes for you during this holy Christmas season and the coming new year, the Year of Mercy.

There are so many wonderful blessings given to us at this time of the year. There is,first of all, the declaration of Pope Francis that this year is to be a Year of Mercy beginning with the first Sunday of Advent. Then there is the beautiful gospel read for today’s mass describing what has come to be known as the Mystery Of the Visitation. And then of course, there is the wonderful festival of Christmas itself. I would like to say a word or two about the Visitation and then perhaps a little more about the Year of Mercy and all of this, in relation to Christmas.

The Gospel account of the visitation which we read at mass today is in itself a very beautiful, sublime, human and divine event. It is divine because the pregnancy of Elizabeth was surrounded by a divine revelation, a divine promise and was revealed to Mary by the angel Gabriel at the Annunciation. It is human because, for all the world, it was nothing more than a baby shower. Mary hastened from Bethlehem to the town of Ein Karim just a few miles away, to visit with her cousin, to assist her during her pregnancy and the birth of her child. While St. Luke does not that tell us this, it is not unreasonable to suppose that Mary stayed with Elizabeth for six months until the birth of John the Baptist. The bonding that they had, the conversations, and the sharing can easily be imagined by any woman today who has borne a child. In this greatest of all mysteries, the embodiment of divine mercy in the child Jesus, it is all about the women. Just as it was a woman who first announced the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, so it was two women who prepared the way for the incarnation of Jesus into the human life.

Now regarding the Year of Mercy. When Pope Francis first announced that he was declaring 2016 as the Year of Mercy, I thought it was just being superfluous. We all know that God is a God of mercy. But do we really? We know it theoretically. It is a basic part of the Scriptures and the teachings of the church. But do we really know it? Is it alive and well and living in our world. I have come to realize that Pope Francis recognized the need for a real understanding of the mercy of God, an appreciation of it, and above all, putting it into practice in the life of the universal church and in our own personal lives. We have been told that we should always temper justice with mercy but in fact, the culture of the church and therefore the culture of most of the members of the church has been to temper mercy with justice. The Catholic Church and therefore Catholics,have been, as Pope Francis describes it, exceedingly self-referential, judgmental,and exclusive, placing the canon law of the church and its restrictions above the mercy and love for which it exists and which it is supposed to support. Contradicting the teachings of Christ, for many centuries the church has maintained that man was made for the Sabbath and not the Sabbath for man. It is the intention of our holy father that the church returns officially and personally to be a manifestation of the merciful and loving embrace that God wishes it to be. The potential is there, or rather I should say the potential is here, because you and I are that potential. We must extricate ourselves from the self-referential, judgmental exclusivity that we have taken upon ourselves as members of the church. One noted theologian has said that we are constantly re-creating God in our own image and likeness. What we see in ourselves, we tend to see in God. There has been a blindness there and the Pope is attempting to open our eyes.

In the past three weeks, three unrelated incidents have occurred that have drawn my attention to a kind of cultural psychology or levels of development, that many of you may know under the title Spiral Dynamics. When that happens, I am convinced that it means that the cosmic order is trying to tell me something! I would like to mention this briefly because it is a wonderful way by which we can remove the beams from our own eyes and begin to see with the light of Christ. Spiral Dynamics describes a series of progressions or developments which are undergone by a culture, a community, a business, a government, a church, a family and ultimately by the individuals of that culture, community, church and family. This is a situation in which knowledge is power and sometimes just knowing these progressions can help us bring it about.

Richard Rohr describes these levels under aid different colors just as a teaching tool.

The first level,

Beige: Instinctive/Survivalistic — The basic theme is to do what it takes to stay alive, with a preference for pleasure over pain. There is a unitive absorption with one’s mother and an original innocence and naïveté.

Purple: Magical/Animistic — It becomes important to honor and obey the spirit-being presented and the group’s leaders, rituals, and customs.

Red: Impulsive/Egocentric — The individual realizes that he or she can be distinct from the tribe and can break free from group constraints; the heroic self.

Blue: Purposeful/Authoritarian — The “true believers,” the concrete-literal fundamentalists, love certitude and knowing who is right and who is wrong. They presume they are right and will be rewarded.

Orange: Achievist/Strategic — People who are self-reliant, rational, educated, and willing to take risks will “win.” Societies will prosper through competitiveness and technology.

Green: Communitarian/Egalitarian — “Seek peace within the inner self and explore, with others, the caring dimensions of community.” Political correctness, human rights, and equality are the highest virtues.

Yellow: Integrative — Human lives and society are seen much like vibrant, resilient ecosystems where chaos and fluctuation are expected.

Turquoise: Holistic — The entire world is “a single, dynamic organism with its own collective mind.”

Richard Rohr concludes his explanation with this advice:

“Tracing Your Journey

I encourage you to spend some time looking back over your life through the lens of Spiral Dynamics. With compassion and tenderness, notice how at various stages you were fixated on different priorities, different measures of right and wrong, different sources of meaning and belonging. Give thanks for the lessons you learned at each level that helped you survive, succeed, and become who you are today. Ask yourself what beliefs you may be ready to lay to rest, ways of thinking and acting that no longer serve your maturing awareness of reality.”

 

Father William Meninger

Schedule for 2016

February 19-21

St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Seattle Washington

February 22-24

Church of conscious harmony, Austin Texas

February 25 to March 1

Tallahassee Florida – including weekend retreat At Camp Weed the 26th to the 28th On Women Mystics.

March 12

one day workshop on the process of forgiveness. St. Benedict’s monastery retreat house, Snowmass Colorado.

April 22

Jackson Mississippi – St. Richards church

one day workshop on The Cloud of Unknowing.

Contact:Kris Mink

May 6 to 8

weekend retreat at St.Walberga,Virginia Dale, Colo. The Process of Forgiveness

contact: Michelle Danson<contemplativebeehive.com>

Workshops in Boulder and Fort Collins

contact: Rev. Ted Howard, St. John’s Episcopal Church Boulder and Cindy Clyde, Fort Collins for dates and topics

May 25 to June 9

Boston, Massachusetts – including a weekend retreat May 30 to June 3 at Mirimar in Duxbury Massachusetts for Boston clergy. Contact father Meninger at 617-389-3842.

June 10 to June 26

Kansas and Missouri

contact Mike Matteuzzi

mmatteuzzi@ma2zlaw.com

October 3 to 13

private retreat in Scarsdale New York for the sisters of the Blessed Sacrament.

October 14 to Nov.3

various events in Virginia, Washington DC, and Pennsylvania. Contact Phil Stone: <philstone@cox.net>

Dallas, Texas – one day workshop on The Process of Forgiveness. Contact:Ed Guncial:<cpdallas@cellofpeace.com>

First week of December

Shivananda ashram – Nassau, Bahamas

the Bhagavad-Gita and The Cloud of Unknowing

the ox herding pictures as the spiritual journey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

November 8, 2015

There is a story of six people who froze to death  sitting around a campfire on a bitterly cold night.  Each one had a substantial piece of wood that they might have contributed to the fire.  But for reasons satisfactory to themselves each one refused to give to the fire the piece that they had.  One woman would not give her a piece of wood because there was an illegal immigrant from Mexico around the fire,and why should she be responsible for him?  A homeless man would not give his because there was a rich man there.  The rich man would not give his piece of wood because it would warm someone who was obviously lazy and shiftless .  Another would not give his wood because he did not see anybody there who belonged to his church.  An African-American man withheld his piece of wood because he wanted to get even with the white man for what he had done to him and his race.  As each person withheld his piece of wood for reasons justifiable to himself, the fire died out and all six froze to death.

 

This story was originally told in a poem that ended with these tragic lines

“Six logs held fast in death’s still hand was proof of human sin,they did not die from the cold without, they died from the cold within.”

This morning’s gospel is not a diatribe against wealthy people and their contributions to worthy causes but rather it is a commendation to generous people who give with warm and joyful hearts whatever their station in life allows.

The story of the six people who froze to death sitting around the fire is not a diatribe against the particular circumstances of any given class, religion, race or financial status, but a warning that unless we all contribute from what we have, and, no matter who we are, what we have is good and necessary, we will all suffer the consequences.  We will die from the cold within.

 

So we must ask ourselves,” what is my widow’s mite?  How generously and with what warmth do I contribute  to my community, my society, my family and even to myself?”

There is a saying, attributed to the Buddha, “no snowflake ever falls in the wrong place”.  There is a saying from the Scriptures, “for those who love God, all things work together unto good”,and also,”the Lord loves a cheerful giver.”  Your widows mite, be it large or small, given from a generous and loving heart can do great things.

 —–

May you be happy,
May you be free,
May you be loving,
May you be loved.
Father William Meninger

August 23, 2015 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time

When the tribes of Israel had gathered at Shechem, Joshua offered them the option of following him and his service to the Lord or turning to the pagan gods of the land in which they were dwelling.  The people chose to follow Joshua and the Lord.  The reasons that they gave for this choice are very significant.  They chose God because they had experienced his presence in their lives and his influence on the history of their tribes.  Is this relevant to us today?
 
We are constantly making options for God or for whatever opposing gods there are our experiences, that is,unloving and harmful commitments, ideologies,and lifestyles. The reason for our choice like the Israelites of old, depends on our experiences.  How do we recognize God in our lives?  Do we see his guiding hand in our history?  How real is our personal relationship with God? Do we recognize his will as beneficial to our times, our nation and ourselves?
 
The mystics of the Christian church and indeed of all religions have their own answer to this question and to this option. As Thomas Merton writes, “I have become convinced that the very contradictions in my life are in some ways signs of God’s mercy to me.”  In this Merton is telling us that God is present in every thing if we could but see him.  He is present in suffering, tragedies, and sorrows as well as in health, triumphs and joy.  The mystic sees the presence of God, as St. Ignatius puts it, in desolations and consolations or as Julian of Norwich says, in woe as well as in weil.
What is required to recognize this constant presence of God in our lives is what some call the contemplative attitude.  It is natural to our human nature to stand in awe and wonder at the magnificent presence and deeds of God in our universe, our planet and our individual lives.  What the mystics tell us, however, is that God is also present in the tragedies, the sufferings, and the sorrows.  This is indeed the meaning of the crucifixion of Christ.  This is also the meaning of Christ’s teaching, “Take up your cross daily and follow me.”
 
The contemplative attitude is strengthened, enhanced, and made recognizable through the practice of contemplative prayer, one form of which is the practice we know as Centering Prayer.  There are, of course, many other forms of contemplation practiced within the context of the Christian church as well as outside of it in Buddhism, Hinduism and other religions. A mystic is simply one who engages in the practice of contemplative meditation and therefore lives, to some degree or other, in the contemplative attitude.  He or she sees the reality of God in all things and stands before it in awe and wonder.
 
Sometimes, however, God does present himself and his message to us in such positive, concrete and graphic ways that even those who are not engaged in the contemplative dimension of reality are able to see it, wonder at it and appreciate it.  These ways are sometimes cataclysmic, cosmic tragedies, or human depravities, such as wars and genocides or personal crosses suffered by communities or individuals.
 
I have spoken of this before but would like to repeat the story again as it exemplifies what I consider the awesome presence of God in the context of a human tragedy.  Brother Aaron has on display in our bookstore a framed portrait sent to us by Joseph Daniels, the CEO and president of the 9/11 National Monument and Museum.  It is a picture of an item discovered by one of the firemen who worked clearing away the rubble of the Twin Towers in order to discover and properly dispose of the thousands of bodies found therein.  I learned of this from him at a seminar we both attended on Forgiveness and Vengeance at the Aspen Institute a few months ago.  This item is a Bible found in the wreckage with its pages fused together so that they cannot be turned.  The Bible itself is fused by heat to a steel girder so that it cannot be easily disposed of.  This Bible is perpetually opened to an easily legible chapter 5 in St. Matthew’s Gospel, the Sermon on the Mount, verse 38 which reads: “You have heard it said an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth but I say to you, turn the other cheek.”

May you be happy,
May you be free,
May you be loving,
May you be loved.
Father William Meninger

15th Sunday, July 12, 2015

Blessed Be the God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Who Has Blessed Us in Christ

with Every Spiritual Blessing in the Heavens

As He Chose Us in him, before the foundation of the world

to be holy and without blemish before him.  (Ephesians chapter 1).

At the end of my homily, I hope to repeat these words and a few more from the second reading of today’s mass.  Hopefully they will have taken on a deeper meaning for us. Please note that they speak of humankind as holy and without blemish.

I will attempt to present a theological understanding of these verses that might represent a cutting edge in present-day theology even though my source is a 14th century  mystic, Julian of Norwich.  Our tendency today is to refer to great theologians as wisdom teachers, such as Karl Rahner Thomas Merton and Richard Rohr.  Some people feel that they ‘push the envelope’ on what is theologically sound.  You can judge for yourself.  It is certainly not my intention to dismay or discourage you but rather to seek your approval and edification.

The foundation for Christian theology in the Catholic church, and in most Protestant churches is the book of Genesis, the first chapter, with its two accounts of creation.  The book of Genesis is a part of the Bible and therefore is inspired, that is, it is the revelation of God.  The interpretation of the book of Genesis is also inspired, that is, by the Holy Spirit as she dwells in the church today reminding us of all that Jesus has taught us.  The Holy Spirit was sent to us on Pentecost, not as the conclusion of Christian revelation but rather as it’s beginning.  The church’s understanding of the meaning of the Bible has not reached its conclusion but possibly has barely begun.  As the human race proceeds in knowledge, wisdom, and sophistication, and also in its power over the created world and its ability to destroy it, it needs more and more the inspiration or the guidance of the Holy Spirit. One very important area for this guidance is in an understanding which the Bible gives as the foundation for understanding the spiritual destiny of the human race.

The book of Genesis was written for a simple, uneducated, unsophisticated tribe of wandering nomads around 4000 years ago.  In fact it was not written for hundreds of years after it was formed orally in the form of tribal stories and poems recited around the evening campfires.  It was only written down in the seventh century BC as the book of Genesis.  It represents then what we call a mythical understanding of mankind and its relationship to God.  As the  three most recent popes have told us, the story of Adam and Eve, the garden of Eden, disobedience to God by eating the forbidden fruit, and the expulsion from the garden of Eden with its promise of the Messiah, is a mythology. 

We do not mean by a mythology that it is a legend or a fairytale but rather it is a simple, imaginative way of trying to express a profound reality.

However, herein lies the problem.  What satisfied the people of 4000 years ago as a mythology, an explanation of a profound spiritual truth, may not have that effect on people today. 

The story of Genesis provided the Israelites with answers to this problem.  As they looked around them they were very much aware of evils in the world; physical evils, moral evils, personal suffering and death.  They needed an explanation for these things and through divine inspiration, they were given the book of Genesis and the creation story.  Please note that it was a creation story not a creation history. They were told, first of all, that when God created mankind, men and women, he saw, not only that they were good, as was the rest of creation, but that they were very good, better than the rest of creation.  Befittingly then, they were placed in the garden of paradise.  But this was not the observations of these Isrealites when they saw in their daily lives, the evil, suffering and death that were so prevalent around them.  What happened?  The mythology of Genesis answers that question.  Adam and Eve were disobedient to God’s command, ate the forbidden fruit, and were expelled from paradise to earn their living by tilling the earth and to give birth in pain and suffering.  Thus the Israelites understood the world they were living in and their role in it.

Now the story of Genesis is part of the Bible, it is inspired, and it will always have relevance in our understanding of God’s dealings with us.  We have to admit however, that in the passage of centuries, it has gotten more and more difficult to understand if we take it in a literal manner and even if we are sophisticated enough to see it as a mythology.

The Christian dispensation is maturing and is in need of a mythology that is more befitting to its education and sophistication.  Even the seventh grade science student needs a better explanation than the story of Adam and Eve.  The idea of Original Sin as the spiritual foundation of the human race is not acceptable in our scientific world and it is even less acceptable to our modern Christian world.  What was acceptable to people four thousand years ago in the pre-Christian dispensation is very different from today with our understanding of God as  taught by Jesus Christ and as interpreted by 2000 years of guidance by the Holy Spirit, even in face of our many failures. 

What Christians must do today, suggests Richard Rohr, is build the church on a new foundation of original goodness, not any original curse or sin.  Today’s second reading supports this.  St. Paul, interpreting the teachings of and about Jesus does not see mankind through the eyes of guilt and Original Sin.  We need a new mythology.

Strangely enough a new mythology was given to us 600 years ago in the 14th century by Julian of Norwich.  With her understanding of God as love taught by Jesus. Julian does this in the 51st chapter of her wonderful book, “The Revelations of Divine Love”.  Julian, through a special revelation given to her by Christ, sees the foundation of the human race in a very different way.  Here is her mythology.

 

She sees a Lord, obviously God, sitting on his throne on a level plain with his servant, obviously the human race or Adam or Christ the new Adam, standing by his side.  The servant is eagerly awaiting a command from his Lord so that he can rush to do his will.  The Lord leans over and whispers something in the servant’s ear.  Immediately he dashes off in his eagerness to fulfill the will of his Lord.  After a little distance, in his haste, he stumbles and falls into a deep ditch.  He is badly hurt physically by reason of broken bones and morally by reason of his inability to see his master because of the depth of the ditch.  This is his greatest regret as he lies there suffering.  After a while, taken up by his own distress, he even forgets about his Lord and is simply concerned with licking his own wounds.

As he lies there separated from his Lord and suffering, his Lord comes searching for him and looks down at him compassionately.  And, Julian tells us,  “The Lord saw no guilt in him”.The  lord then gently, compassionately picked him up and restored him to even a greater place in his esteem than he had before.

This is a new mythology, not one of sin, disobedience and guilt but one whose foundation is God’s creation of the human race which he saw was very good.  It is not a story of judgment, condemnation, and punishment, but of forgiveness compassion and love.

Julian’s Adam fell, if you will, not into sin but into a ditch, and not through disobedience but through eagerness to serve.  True, his sufferings did separate him from his Lord and even made him forget but it was not through evil intentions.  The Lord sought him out, not to accuse him of sin, and punish him but to look upon him with compassion and to see no guilt in him.  He was restored to the Lord’s favor and we understand that this was done through the mediation of Christ.  This mythology is how Jesus would look at creation and the foundation of the human race , And of how He knows and sees the Father and would bring him to us.

Now perhaps, we can understand and listen with new ears to the reading from  Ephesians. 

EPH 1:3-10

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who has blessed us in Christ
with every spiritual blessing in the heavens,
as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world,
to be holy and without blemish before him.
In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ,
in accord with the favor of his will,
for the praise of the glory of God’s grace
that he granted us in the beloved.

In him we have redemption by his blood,
the forgiveness of transgressions,
in accord with the riches of his grace that he lavished upon us.
In all wisdom and insight, he has made known to us
the mystery of his will in accord with his favor
that he set forth in him as a plan for the fullness of times,
to sum up all things in Christ, in heaven and on earth . 

May you be happy,
May you be free,
May you be loving,
May you be loved.
Father William Meninger