Presence Podcast – Atomic #19 – Christ Through Potassium

Atomic #19 – Christ Through Potassium

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Potassium, atomic symbol K, is essential to the basic functioning of your body. It also was likely integral to the emergence of life on Earth. Christ, like K as it hits H2O, explodes into creation not by going up to the heavens, but by descending into humanity and the experience of being alive in flesh and bone.

Potassium in its pure, metallic form

The chemical symbol K comes from kalium, the Mediaeval Latin for potash, which may have derived from the arabic word qali, meaning alkali. Potassium is a soft, silvery-white metal, member of the alkali group of the periodic chart.

From “Chemical Properties of Potassium”

“What Does Potassium Do For Your Body?”

Top 14 Health Benefits of Potassium”

“Six Steps to Controlling High Potassium”

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Presence Podcast – Barmen Today – Commitment to Equality and Dignity – Background and Introduction

Barmen Today – Background and Introduction

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A Washington Post article today quoting words against racism from a Catholic archbishop and words from a Baptist reverend saying Donald Trump isn’t racist illustrate the division in how Christians are responding to recent violent, hate filled shootings and “tweet-storms.” This episode begins reflection on “Barmen Today: A Contemporary Contemplative Declaration.”

Barmen Today – Read the Statement and Sign the Petition

5 Minutes in Church History – The Barmen Declaration

Barmen Declaration (Wikipedia)

Barmen Today: An Act of Divine Obedience

Archbishop of San Antonio Gustavo Garcia-Siller Video Response

“Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call of Love” – A Pastoral Letter Against Racism

“Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” The US Bishops Reflection on Catholic Teaching and Political Life

Prayer Numbers – Nine Days for Life and One Hundred Days of Prayer

As I wrap up this weekend, I share a few prayer intentions my classes and I will be praying with this coming week.

First, the USCCB offers many wonderful resources to pray over Nine Days for Life (21 Jan to 29 Jan). I put some pro-life prayer intentions in the slide deck for this week’s lectionary gospel. 

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Additionally, I found a thoughtful, “must-read” article on the U.S. Catholic blog which offers six numbers which pro-life Catholics should keep an eye on during the presidency of Donald Trump.

And, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange are publishing a calendar of the first 100 Days of President Trump with a prayer intention each day related to life and justice.

The slide above, which combines the prayer intention and the pro-life numbers, can be accessed in Monday’s Saint O’the Day and in each Saint O’the Day posting going forward.

Happy 2017! A New Year and a New Look

As a Catholic and a teacher, January 1st isn’t as important as either the first Sunday of Advent or the first day of school. While I celebrate today with the rest of the world, I’ve already welcomed 2017 and 2016-2017.

Culturally it feels like there’s both a sense of relief that 2016 is done, yet trepidation with what 2017 will bring – especially with a new U.S. President in twenty days.

So, I share with you three things today..

First, I chose the image above as it reminds me of a favorite quote:

01-01-light-a-candle

I think I’ll use this as a prayer or mantra over the next 365 days.

Second, I’ve changed the look of this blog. I felt it was time to freshen things up and to allow more posts to be viewed simultaneously. Note that the items which were on the side bars are now at the bottom. Please let me know what you think this new format.

Finally, I offer the list of Pope Francis’ prayer intentions for this coming year. I hope you’ll pray with the Holy Father, the Universal Church, my classes and me for these great needs for our planet.

And, as we face the unknown of what 2017 will bring, may we follow Pope Francis and his invitation for all of us:

01-01-pope-francis-be-brave

 

 

Meditation Monday: Third Week of Advent

As I mentioned last Monday and the Monday before, the Spirituality Committee at my school has commissioned me to create a short video meditation for each Monday of Advent. It’s my pleasure to share this video for you to personally use or to share with others:

Today (March 22nd)is World Water Day!

Yes, it’s late in the day and ideally this post should have come yesterday or at least earlier today. But, with something as essential as H2O , better late than never.

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When you think about it, I really should have had this day highlighted well in advance on my calendar (rather than just discover it right now on the Google blog). I don’t give much credence to the Zodiac, but I do know that I’m the “water bearer” – Aquarius. This suits me to a T as I’m known to leave home with far more (reusable) bottles of water than I’ll ever need. BTW, for what it’s worth, the best reusable I’ve ever owned is by Kleen Kanteen. 

To celebrate World Water Day, here’s some important facts from the International Business Times:

1. 1.8 billion people around the world lack access to safe water.

2. Globally, a third of all schools lack access to safe water and adequate sanitation.

3. In low- and middle-income countries, a third of all healthcare facilities lack a safe water source.

4. The World Economic Forum in January 2015 ranked the water crisis as the No. 1 global risk based on impact to society (as a measure of devastation).

5. The incidence of children suffering from stunting and chronic malnutrition — at least 160 million — is linked to water and sanitation.

6. More than 840,000 people die from a water-related disease each year, including diarrhea caused by bad drinking water, hygiene and sanitation.

7. Eighty-two percent of people who don’t have access to “improved” water live in rural areas.

8. More than one-third of people worldwide lack access to a toilet, more than the number of people who have a mobile phone.

9. Women and children spend 125 million hours collecting fresh water every day. Individual women and children spend as many as six hours collecting fresh water daily.

10. Every 90 seconds a child dies from a water-related disease.

11. Universal access to safe water and sanitation would result in $18.5 billion in economic benefits each year from deaths avoided alone, a return of $4 for every dollar spent on safe water access.

12. The amount of safe water could drop by 40 percent in 15 years if people do not change the way they use water.

Pretty shocking and downright scandalous realities about this absolutely essential natural resource. Especially #10 above, shouldn’t happen in the 21st century.

More facts and illustrations can be found at water.org 

And from Charity: Water comes this high-tech, heart-breaking and amazing short film:

Also DROP4DROP seeks to raise awareness of the global water crisis and aid communities in getting the water they desperately need.

So, this Easter Sunday, when you get splashed by holy water while renewing your baptismal vows, say a prayer for those without clean, safe water. And maybe also give to one or more of these worthy organizations.

Friday FaithPost: Scapegoating, Mimetic Theory and Another View of Atonement

OK, so the title of this post doesn’t roll off of the tongue very well. And you may be asking: Why should I read about atonement? How does it relate to scapegoating? Or even “What is atonement?

From a Christian theological perspective, atonement refers to how Jesus’ life, death and resurrection reconciled our sins. The “bumper sticker” version of this is “Jesus saves.” Many, if not nearly all, Christians, when thinking about how Jesus saves, adopt a transactional or legalistic view of this process.

Substitutionary Atonement is a general term for this view. The logic supporting it can be summarized:

+ Human sin, both Original Sin and the myriad individual sin flowing from it, offends God’s sense of justice.

+ This justice demands payment or punishment commensurate with the offense committed against God.

+ Since human sin is so massive, there is no amount punishment or ransom humans can endure or offer which can appease God’s justice.

+ Only God’s son – both human and divine – can take upon himself human sin. When he endures the violence of brutal punishment and sacrificially sheds his blood as a stand-in for humans (a substitute) God’s justice is served. And through this sacrifice, God and humanity are reconciled.

A very popular narrative representation of this view of atonement is in C.S. Lewis’ beloved and allegorical “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.” Edmond betrays his siblings to the evil character. Even though he is forgiven for this by the Christ-like Aslan, the satanic witch cites the foundational justice of the land which requires traitors to become subject to destruction at her hands.Instead,  Aslan takes the witch’s violence himself, thus saving Edmond. And in doing so, an even “deeper magic” come into effect to restore him to life and energize all to defeat evil.

Another bumper sticker sized statement flows from this view of the mechanics of atonement – “Jesus Died For Your Sins.” Adherents of this perspective often emphasize how much Jesus suffered before and on the cross. A correlation is drawn between the magnitude of sin committed by humanity and the amount of pain Jesus endured as a direct consequence. The not infrequently stated: “Your sins drove a nail in to Jesus” is the harsh conclusion of this belief.

The question at the heart of this view of atonement is: “Did God the Father need (or want) Jesus to die in order to save humanity from sin and death?” Certainly Jesus died a violent death at the hands of the Romans. But, did God want/need this? If the answer is “yes,” then violence and the resulting salvation proclaimed by Christianity is sanctified and glorified. The implications cut right to the heart of Christian ethics. Although Jesus lived a life proclaiming peace, if God the Father needs/wants the blood of his son for appeasement, then violence trumps peace as the core characteristic of God’s nature. And consequently, Christians may be justified in similarly using “righteous” violence.

A growing number of theologians are showing how the exact opposite is true – Jesus died as a result of sin, specifically the foundational human sin of scapegoating.  God didn’t need/desire this violence, but allowed it, in order to turn it inside out through the resurrection of the innocent, scapegoated victim.

Perhaps the most prominent American Catholic theologian, Bishop Robert Barron, has  been speaking more and more about the theology of non-violent atonement. Read or watch below Bishop Barron’s high praise for recently deceased sociologist and theologian Rene Girard who wrote extensively about mimetic theory and scapegoating.

Bishop Barron concludes about Girard:

There are some thinkers that offer intriguing ideas and proposals, and there is a tiny handful of thinkers that manage to shake your world. Girard was in this second camp. In a series of books and articles, written across several decades, he proposed a social theory of extraordinary explanatory power.

Girard also informs the excellent work of The Raven Foundation who offer this video mission statement:

I appreciate the dedicated work of the Raven team who frequently post commentary pointing out the many ways scapegoating happens all around us. Two thought-provoking, recent posts to check out are:

“Zootopia” How to Make the World a Better Place

“Spotlight” on Children

A bonus third post, my favorite one, also referencing a movie:

My Daughter, the Star Wars myth and Jesus – How to Defeat Evil

So, why did I spend time with this long post today? First of all, a week from now, on Good Friday, I hope this post and Girard’s powerful way of re-understanding how atonement happens allow you to experience the cross in a deeper, more profound way.  Next, as the violence, especially religiously justified acts, increases in the world, Christians must look at the root of our theology to critique how it may support God-ordained violence. Finally,  a deeper understanding of mimetic dynamics, the subsequent scapegoating and its ancient social power should lead all people of faith to prophetically expose this mechanism in order to defuse its seductive power.

 

 

 

Tuesday FaithPost – Powerful Stations of the Cross by Busted Halo

Is it Friday already? No, sadly it is not yet. I’m sharing a FaithPost a couple of days early as I want to offer this wonderful resource now, so that you could possibly use it before or during Holy Week.

The good Paulist Fathers who create the awesome, newly redesigned, young-adult site Busted Halo, have put together a quite powerful set of videos following the Stations of the Cross. Each video uses just text and music to tell the story and interpret the meaning of each of the fourteen traditional moments in Christ’s Passion. Here’s the fourth station, which I find particularly moving and insightful:

There’s a lot I like about these videos. But two aspects are particularly meaningful. First, the overarching theme of this version of the Way of the Cross is the Kingdom of God. This central vision of Jesus’ ministry is at the heart of the gospel and thus something which we must emphasize time and again to those to whom we minister.

I also find the simple music accompanying the words on the screen provocative, compelling and deeply moving. The piano melody used with the stations in which Jesus Meets His Mother, Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus and Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem is one I find haunting and well-matched to the emotions of these encounters.

I’m using these videos in our chapel as a prayer service with all five of my classes today. It has worked better with my one sophomore class than my two freshmen ones. I think the greater maturity and developing wisdom in the older students is the main difference.

I’ve created this presentation to use with the videos. It should be pretty self-explanatory – show the slide introducing a station, play the video and then prayerfully read the supporting slide while giving the viewers/participants a few moments to reflect.

A couple of things you may wonder about the presentation: The photos of the crosses were ones that I took while visiting Christ in the Desert Monastery in northern New Mexico a few years ago.  And the colors of the background of the slides is meant to represent the transition and transformation of this time in Lent, to Holy Week and then to Easter.

I hope you find this Busted Halo Stations of the Cross as meaningful and useful as I do. The video below will link you to the playlist of  all the fourteen stations.

May you have a blessed Fifth Tuesday of Lent and a good rest of the week.

Friday FaithPost: Pray as You Go App/Website/Podcast

Another week rolls by. It’s hard to believe that a fortnight from today is Good Friday. March often drags by, but this year it and Lent are zipping by. The relative lack of winter here in Ohio surely helps!

Last weekend I posted about some podcasts that I like and an outstanding way to listen to them on an Android device (Pocket Cast).  Today, I share a Catholic daily podcast which helps my faith to grow and deepen. It has its own iOS and Android apps too (see below about Android.)

The site is “Pray as You Go” and it’s created by the Jesuits in Britain who also create the equally excellent “Thinking Faith”  and “Sacred Space”

I won’t spend time and space here trying to “sell” you on “Pray as You Go.” I will say that I get much from the short (12 min or less) combination of music, the day’s scripture (read twice in lectio divina style), brief commentary, reflection questions and an invitation for prayer.

I do recommend that you listen to it directly through the website or via a general podcasting app like Pocket Cast. “Pray As You Go” has an expanded presence on Soundcloud which has a pretty good Android app. It appears that there’s content there which isn’t elsewhere, such as this series of talks and poems by the great Gerard Manly Hopkins, S.J.

About the Android “Pray as You Go” app – I’d avoid it for now. It has an issue which doesn’t allow you to stream or download a day’s content until well after it has passed. I thought this might be just an issue on my device, so I emailed them. Turns, out they are aware of this universal problem and are working to fix it in a future release.

Until then, I hope you’ll use one of these many means listed above to pray as you go — to work, on a walk, to the store, wherever!