Today's Wisdom

Those who do not pass from the experience of the cross to the truth of the resurrection condemn themselves to despair! For we cannot encounter God without first crucifying our narrow notions of a god who reflects only our own understanding of omnipotence and power
Pope Francis

Monday, June 1, 2020

Recently Published Scientific and Philosophical Inquiries

1) The Biggest Ideas in the Universe | Q&A 10 - Interactions" 
recorded 29 May 2020
Sean Carroll is Professor of Theoretical Physicist at the California Institute of Technology, and an External Professor at the Santa Fe Institute. He is the host of the weekly Mindscape podcast. He is the author of several books, most recently Something Deeply Hidden: Quantum Worlds and the Emergence of Spacetime. 
[The Biggest Ideas in the Universe is a series of videos where I talk informally about some of the fundamental concepts that help us understand our natural world. Exceedingly casual, not overly polished, and meant for absolutely everybody. This is the Q&A video for Idea #10, "Interactions." I talk about the circumstances under which it's okay to use Feynman diagrams and think of fields as being particle-like vs. wave-like, and am a bit more precise about locality and the infinite number of degrees of freedom in a field theory. My web page: http://www.preposterousuniverse.com/ 
My YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/seancarroll ]

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Pope Francis: "The Mystery of the Spirit is Gift"


On the Solemnity of Pentecost May 31, 2020, the Holy Father Pope Francis uttered the following homily in the Pontifical Mass celebrated at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome...

"Let us now focus on ourselves, the Church of today. We can ask ourselves: “What is it that unites us, what is the “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit” (1 Cor 12:4), as the Apostle Paul writes to the Corinthians. He continues: “There are different forms of service, but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone” (vv. 5-6). Diversity and unity: Saint Paul puts together two words that seem contradictory. He wants to tell us that the Holy Spirit is the one who brings together the many; and that the Church was born this way: we are all different, yet united by the same Holy Spirit.


Let us go back to the origin of the Church, to the day of Pentecost. Let us look at the Apostles: some of them were fishermen, simple people accustomed to living by the work of their hands, but there were also others, like Matthew, who was an educated tax collector. They were from different backgrounds and social contexts, and they had Hebrew and Greek names. In terms of character, some were meek and others were excitable; they all had different ideas and sensibilities. They were all different. Jesus did not change them; he did not make them into a set of pre-packaged models. No. He left their differences and now he unites them by anointing them with the Holy Spirit. With the anointing comes their union – union in diversity. At Pentecost, the Apostles understand the unifying power of the Spirit. They see it with their own eyes when everyone, though speaking in different languages, comes together as one people: the people of God, shaped by the Spirit, who weaves unity from diversity and bestows harmony because in the Spirit there is harmony. He himself is harmony.

Let us now focus on ourselves, the Church of today. We can ask ourselves: “What is it that unites us, what is the basis of our unity?”. We too have our differences, for example: of opinions, choices, sensibilities. But the temptation is always fiercely to defend our ideas, believing them to be good for everybody and agreeing only with those who think as we do. This is a bad temptation that brings division. But this is a faith created in our own image; it is not what the Spirit wants. We might think that what unite us are our beliefs and our morality. But there is much more: our principle of unity is the Holy Spirit. He reminds us that first of all we are God’s beloved children; all equal, in this respect, and all different. The Spirit comes to us, in our differences and difficulties, to tell us that we have one Lord – Jesus – and one Father, and that for this reason we are brothers and sisters! Let us begin anew from here; let us look at the Church with the eyes of the Spirit and not as the world does. The world sees us only as on the right or left, with one ideology or the other; the Spirit sees us as sons and daughters of the Father and brothers and sisters of Jesus. The world sees conservatives and progressives; the Spirit sees children of God. A worldly gaze sees structures to be made more efficient; a spiritual gaze sees brothers and sisters pleading for mercy. The Spirit loves us and knows everyone’s place in the grand scheme of things: for him, we are not bits of confetti blown about by the wind, rather we are irreplaceable fragments in his mosaic.

If we go back to the day of Pentecost, we discover that the first task of the Church is proclamation. Yet we also see that the Apostles devised no strategy; when they were locked in there, in the Upper Room, they were not strategizing, no, they were not drafting any pastoral plan. They could have divided people into groups according to their roots, speaking first to those close by and then to those far away, in an orderly manner... They could have also waited a while before beginning their preaching in order to understand more deeply the teachings of Jesus, so as to avoid risks... No. The Spirit does not want the memory of the Master to be cultivated in small groups locked in upper rooms where it is easy to “nest”. This is a terrible disease that can also infect the Church: making her into a nest instead of a community, a family or a Mother. The Spirit himself opens doors and pushes us to press beyond what has already been said and done, beyond the precincts of a timid and wary faith. In the world, unless there is tight organization and a clear strategy, things fall apart. In the Church, however, the Spirit guarantees unity to those who proclaim the message. The Apostles set off: unprepared, yet putting their lives on the line. One thing kept them going: the desire to give what they received. The opening part of the First Letter of Saint John is beautiful: “that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you” (cf. 1:3).

Here we come to understand what the secret of unity is, the secret of the Spirit. The secret of unity in the Church, the secret of the Spirit is gift. For the Spirit himself is gift: he lives by giving himself and in this way he keeps us together, making us sharers in the same gift. It is important to believe that God is gift, that he acts not by taking away, but by giving. Why is this important? Because our way of being believers depends on how we understand God. If we have in mind a God who takes away and who imposes himself, we too will want to take away and impose ourselves: occupying spaces, demanding recognition, seeking power. But if we have in our hearts a God who is gift, everything changes. If we realize that what we are is his gift, free and unmerited, then we too will want to make our lives a gift. By loving humbly, serving freely and joyfully, we will offer to the world the true image of God. The Spirit, the living memory of the Church, reminds us that we are born from a gift and that we grow by giving: not by holding on but by giving of ourselves.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us look within and ask ourselves what prevents us from giving ourselves. There are, so to speak, three main enemies of the gift, always lurking at the door of our hearts: narcissism, victimhood and pessimism. Narcissism makes us idolize ourselves, to be concerned only with what is good for us. The narcissist thinks: “Life is good if I profit from it”. So he or she ends up saying: “Why should I give myself to others?”. In this time of pandemic, how wrong narcissism is: the tendency to think only of our own needs, to be indifferent to those of others, and not to admit our own frailties and mistakes. But the second enemy, victimhood, is equally dangerous. Victims complain every day about their neighbour: “No one understands me, no one helps me, no one loves me, everyone has it in for me!”. How many times have we not heard these complaints! The victim’s heart is closed, as he or she asks, “Why aren’t others concerned about me?”. In the crisis we are experiencing, how ugly victimhood is! Thinking that no one understands us and experiences what we experience. This is victimhood. Finally, there is pessimism. Here the unending complaint is: “Nothing is going well, society, politics, the Church…”. The pessimist gets angry with the world, but sits back and does nothing, thinking: “What good is giving? That is useless”. At this moment, in the great effort of beginning anew, how damaging is pessimism, the tendency to see everything in the worst light and to keep saying that nothing will return as before! When someone thinks this way, the one thing that certainly does not return is hope. In these three – the narcissist idol of the mirror, the mirror-god; the complaint-god: “I feel human only when I complain”; and the negativity-god: “everything is dark, the future is bleak” – we experience a famine of hope and we need to appreciate the gift of life, the gift that each of us is. We need the Holy Spirit, the gift of God who heals us of narcissism, victimhood and pessimism. He heals us from the mirror, complaints and darkness.

Brothers and sisters, let us pray to him: Holy Spirit, memory of God, revive in us the memory of the gift received. Free us from the paralysis of selfishness and awaken in us the desire to serve, to do good. Even worse than this crisis is the tragedy of squandering it by closing in on ourselves. Come, Holy Spirit: you are harmony; make us builders of unity. You always give yourself; grant us the courage to go out of ourselves, to love and help each other, in order to become one family. Amen."

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

The Spirit


God's relationship with Man can be traced in three ages based on how it is perceived: The Age of the Father since creation and His preparation of the Chosen People in the Old Testament to the coming of the Son, The Age of the Son since the incarnation of Christ to his Ascension, and the Age of the Holy Spirit from the time of Christ's sending of the Spirit at Pentecost to the end of the world. We live in the Age of the Holy Spirit. 
In his Sunday May 24 homily (titled "Ce confinement nous invite à un voyage intérieur ..." in French here), the Jesuit scholar Fr. Henri Boulad added that the Spirit of God, the Paraclete, is in the profound spirit of each person. We need the Spirit of God in these troubling times of the pandemic. 
Indeed Fr. George Montague, SM, wrote: [The earth was waste and void, darkness covered the abyss, and a mighty wind was blowing over the surface of the waters” (Genesis 1:1-2). . . .Why do we find this mention of the wind—or “spirit” of God (as the Hebrew word is also translated)— before God spoke his creating words? We have to look at the verb used to describe the spirit’s action. Some translations use the word “blowing,” others “moving”; but I believe that the best translation is “hovering.” The spirit of God was hovering over the waters. The only other place where this verb is used is in Deuteronomy 32:11, where it describes a mother bird beating her wings over her little ones, encouraging them to fly. Unlike the Babylonian myth of creation, in which the chaos is an enemy to be conquered, this formless mess is to be loved and fostered into being. One of the earliest Jewish commentaries on this text, dating from New Testament times, interpreted it this way: “A spirit of love before the Lord was blowing (hovering) over the face of the waters.” This holy wind is not a part of the chaos, it is God’s motherly love conveying the promise of life, order, and beauty to what was of itself a mess. Because God’s spirit was hovering over it, chaos became promise. And so we recognize the relevance of this image for our own lives. At times we feel like our lives are a mess. There is no light, and we are floating about like a cork lost at sea. We try to fight it, to no avail. We try to flee, but there is no exit. What do we do? We fall on our knees and ask the Holy Spirit to hover over our mess, to embrace it lovingly and prepare it for the light of God’s word. If any of our chaotic depths surface, we then turn them over to the Lord. As the powerful but wordless Spirit of God prepared for God’s cosmic word, the Holy Spirit in our wordless prayer lovingly prepares our chaos for the word that will give shape and meaning to what made no sense before. The Spirit will show us how “God makes all things work together for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28).Fr. George Montague, a Marianist priest, is professor of biblical theology at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas. This is adapted from his book, Holy Spirit, Make Your Home in Me. 
The Jesuit Pope Francis is one of the most remarkable Pontiffs in modern times. You may wish to watch his Mass on the birth centennial of Pope St. John Paul the Great here. His homily can be found here. The Mass was translated by Sister Bernadette (Mary) Reis who is a member of "The Daughters of St. Vincent de Paul" - She translates the on-line Masses and other activities of Pope Francis with a sweet voice of devotion. She was interviewed by EWTN on 25 March 2020 (here). Her portraits taken in interviews 5 years ago give us a window in her beautiful spirituality as she sees Christ in the weak and elderly persons that she assists (here and here). On May 30, Pope Francis will lead the major shrines around the world in praying the rosary to implore Mary’s intercession and protection amid the coronavirus pandemic. For May 31, The Solemnity of Pentecost, Pope Francis has called all people to pray together to the Holy Spirit to renew the world and help all humanity to survive the pandemic...

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Pope Francis: "I will not leave you orphans" (John 14:18)


When Jesus takes his leave of the disciples (John 14: 15-21), Jesus gives them tranquillity and peace, with a promise: "I will not leave you orphans" (v. 18). He defends them from that pain, from that painful sense of being orphans. Today in the world there is a great sense of being orphans: many have many things, but the Father is missing. And in the history of humanity this is repeated: when the Father is missing, something is lacking and there is always the desire to meet, to find the Father, even in ancient myths. Let us think of the myths of Oedipus, Telemachus and many others: always looking for the Father who is missing. 

Today we can say that we live in a society where the Father is missing, a sense of being orphans that touches belonging and fraternity. For this reason Jesus promises: "I will ask the Father and he will give you another Advocate" (v. 16). "I am leaving," Jesus says, "but another will come and teach you the way to the Father. He will remind you how to access the Father." The Holy Spirit does not come to make us his clients; he comes to show us the way to the Father, to remind us how to access the Father, which is what Jesus opened to us, what Jesus showed us. There is no spirituality only of the Son, only of the Holy Spirit: the centre is the Father. The Son is sent by the Father and returns to the Father. The Holy Spirit is sent by the Father to remind us and teach us how to access the Father.

Only with this awareness of being children who are not orphans can we live in peace among ourselves. Always wars, both small wars or big wars, always have a dimension of being orphans: the Father who makes peace is missing. For this reason, Peter at the first community says "Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you why you are Christians, for a reason for your hope"( 1Pt 3: 15-18), "but, do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear" (v. 16), that is the gentleness that the Holy Spirit gives. The Holy Spirit teaches us this meekness, this sweetness of the Father's children. The Holy Spirit does not teach us to insult. And one of the consequences of the sense of orphanage is insult, wars, because if there is no Father there are no brothers and sisters, fraternity is lost. Sweetness, respect, meekness are attitudes of belonging, of belonging to a family that is sure they have a Father.

"I will ask the Father and he will give you another Advocate"(John 14: 16) who will remind you how to access the Father, he will remind you that we have a Father who is the centre of everything, the origin of everything, the unity of everything, the salvation of everyone because he sent his Son to save us all. And now he sends the Holy Spirt to remind us: how to access  the Father and this fatherhood, this fraternal attitude of meekness, of sweetness, of peace.

Let us ask the Holy Spirit to always, always remind us of this access to the Father, that He reminds us that we have a Father, and to this civilization, which has a great sense of being orphaned. may He grant them the grace to find the Father, the Father who gives meaning to all life and makes men and women a family.




Monday, May 18, 2020

On the birth centennial of St. John Paul II

Holy Mass by Pope Francis on the birth centennial of St. John Paul II (here). 

Homily of Pope Francis on the birth centennial of St. John Paul II (here).


Today's Quote

"Behold I make all things new." (Revelation 21:5)







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