I already sent this homily out, but was able to get a better layout of it, so if you haven’t already read it, this one is a little easier on the eyes.
Pastor Dick Dahl covered Mass this weekend for me and has given us a superb homily! You will recall that last Sunday we had a discussion about Jesus’ words, (John 14: 6) that no one can go to God but through him. At face value, most of us would say, “That can’t be right,” but what Jesus is saying is a bigger reality–he is speaking about coming to God through Christ, not Jesus the man, but Jesus, the Christ! Read Dick’s homily to have a much clearer sense of this! Thank you Dick!
Today’s Gospel speaks Jesus’ final words before leaving the upper room and being taken prisoner at Gethsemane: “I shall ask the Father and he will give you the Spirit of truth whom you know for he is with you, he is in you. In a short time the world will no longer see me, but you will see that I live and you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me and I in you.
Through Jesus the great divide between ourselves and God is dissolved. This is the message, the good news, that in today’s first reading the apostle Philip is described as sharing with the Samaritans. They are described as unanimously welcoming his message. However, the message was not welcomed everywhere.
In today’s second reading Peter is giving encouragement to Christians in Asia Minor, the region around present-day Turkey, in a time of trial and persecution. The message is the Christ mystery. Peter and Philip had known Jesus in person, but they often didn’t get or understand what he was trying to tell them. Now, however, the Spirit had opened their hearts to appreciate the astonishing and inclusive Christ mystery.
This homily is an attempt to expand our awareness of the universal Christ mystery. I’ve taken insights from and quoted many sources and do not claim any of these thoughts and words as my own.
First, to understand Jesus in a whole new way, you must know that Christ is not his last name, but his eternal identity both before and after the Resurrection. In the opening prayer today we referred to Jesus, the Christ, born of a woman, but without beginning.”
Through Christian Tradition (which of course includes the Sacred Scriptures) and the gift of Faith, Jesus is the one with whom many of us have overcame the split between ourselves and the divine. Jesus is the human being we have come to know as our friend, to love as our brother. But now through the Easter mystery of his death and resurrection, the Holy Spirit gradually helps us begin to grasp and experience the universal Christ mystery.
The Spirit poured out, as it were, at Pentecost on diverse people from many parts of the known world, continues to act today through diverse people in our world. I think those who work in modern science are, perhaps unknowingly, helping us to better grasp the universality of the Christ Mystery. Their perspective is often more expansive than our own thinking.
I recently read a book entitled, Awe-Filled Wonder: the Interface of Science and Spirituality, by Barbara Fiand, a Sister of Notre Dane de Namur. I read it in conjunction with The Divine Matrix by Gregg Braden and Seven Brief Lessons in Physics by Carlo Rovelli.
Carlo Rovelli writes, “Physics opens windows through which what we see does not cease to astonish us. We realize we are full of prejudices and that our intuitive image of the world is partial, parochial, inadequate.” He went on that scientific thought is fed by the capacity “to see things differently than they have previously been seen. Science is primarily about visions.”
I see in these words a humility and an openness that is sadly often lacking in religious believers, especially when we think we know it all and have all the answers. We become blind through complacency to the wonder of the Mystery in which we exist and that pervades all of creation. Awe is a more fitting attitude.
In her book, Awe-filled Wonder, Barbara Fiand reminds us, “Everything that can be spoken about God is metaphor. Symbolic expression is the primary articulation of religious experience. The metaphors are selected according to the culture and context in which we live.” Fiand points out that we often said we were made in God’s image, but, in fact, we repeatedly pictured God in our image. So we’ve gone from projecting God as a Patriarchal figure of tribal nomads, to a Monarchical figure ruling over nations.
Now we no longer need these primitive or medieval metaphors. Pope Francis has said, “True faith requires first crucifying our narrow notions of a God who reflects only our understanding….” He added, “It is better not to believe than to be a false believer.” The 13thcentury mystic, Meister Eckart is said to have prayed God to rid him of God–meaning to free him of the images that he saw as ultimately pointing him away from the Mystery.
St. Paul seems to have grasped this more than others. Paul never doubted the enormously life-changing revelation he had had on the road to Damascus. The Christ he met was not Jesus in the flesh. It was the Risen Christ who is available to us now as Spirit, as an “energy field” that we eventually called the Mystical Body of Christ, the Cosmic or Universal Christ.
In his writings Paul spent much of his life drawing out the immense consequences of this vision. Consequently, very early on Christianity began to see itself as a universal rather than a tribal or regional religion.
With this as our perspective, we begin to recognize that the first incarnation of the Christ Mystery started according to modern science about 13.8 billion years ago at what is called “The Big Bang.” Or as John wrote in the first words of his Gospel, “In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
Creation itself is the first incarnation of Christ. The Holy Spirit is helping us do what Pope Francis called us to do during his recent visit to Fatima—namely to tear down walls. This includes the walls in our minds and understanding that limit the Christ Mystery to the Church community, to the limits of our planet earth, or even the six to seven billion people of the human community.
An authentic God experience overcomes the false split between ourself and the rest of creation including all of time. The Christ Mystery takes us beyond a mere individual and private experience of God.
Most people in past centuries and even now in countries around the world, experience union with the divine, not through Jesus the man whom they may never have heard of, but through the universal Christ, that is, in nature, in moments of pure love, in silence, in music, with animals, in awe before beauty. God uses and honors all starting points!
Pre-Jewish and pre-Christian people already had access to God. This is the church that existed since the first humans. From the first righteous victim symbolized by Abel until now, all suffering cries out to God and elicits divine compassion and community.
Many non-Christians have started with loving the Universal Christ by another name. I can personally affirm that I have met Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists and even self-identified atheists who live in this hidden Mystery of oneness. Barbara Fiand writes, “The god rejected by atheists was most often the literalized ‘image’ of God held up as absolute…devoid of the awe-filled Mystery that whispers to us of the truly Holy.”
Through the discovery of the quantum physics of atomic and subatomic reality, scientists are viewing the universe as a single unified system of nature, connected in ways that are not always obvious. There is a field of energy that connects all of creation.
Full salvation is similarly universal belonging and universal connecting. The quantum perspective of modern science tells us today that separation is an illusion. The Holy Spirit tells us today that we belong to each other. Communion is our essence.
Father Richard Rohr writes, “After conversion, you don’t look out at reality; you look outfrom reality. In other words, God is not “out there,” you are in God and God is in you–as Jesus tells us in today’s Reading. You are in the middle of Reality! You’re a part of it. It’s a mystery of participation.”
Rohr goes on to say that after Paul’s conversion experience, Paul was obsessed with the idea ‘I’m participating in something that’s bigger than me.’ In fact, he uses the phrase ‘in Christ’ 164 times to describe this organic unity and participation in Christ. ‘I live no longer, not I; but Christ lives in me’ (Galatians 2:20). ‘In Christ’ is his code phrase for this new participatory life.”
Through both spirituality and modern science we see therefore that reality is more than appearances at first suggest.
By the illuminating love of the Holy Spirit each of us can realize, “I am God’s dwelling-place.” The Christ is now, here, everywhere, and always. I am also in communion with every part of space and time. This includes all the past, present and future.
Prayer is silent wonder in this Presence, in this Mystery.