December 19, 2015
Fourth Sunday of Advent
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
St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Seattle Washington
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.
one day workshop on the process of forgiveness. St. Benedict’s monastery retreat house, Snowmass Colorado.
Jackson Mississippi – St. Richards church
one day workshop on The Cloud of Unknowing.
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
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: <email@example.com>
Dallas, Texas – one day workshop on The Process of Forgiveness. Contact:Ed Guncial:<firstname.lastname@example.org>
First week of December
Shivananda ashram – Nassau, Bahamas
the Bhagavad-Gita and The Cloud of Unknowing
the ox herding pictures as the spiritual journey