By Kathy Seib Vargas
August, 2016: Reflect on a New Calling that is life-giving for you through deep listening. This calling can be a new activity / relationship or it can be a new perception of your same activities / relationships.
Touched Daily through Amazing Grace
The new calling that has rocked my life, challenged me deeply, and helped me find my place in the world during the past five to six years is a growing awareness of how the new cosmology is transforming spiritual life. The work of Thomas Berry, Brian Swimme, Elizabeth Ann Johnson, and especially a laywoman, Judy Cannato, are bringing me full circle and have anchored my life in hope in spite of the immense problems presently facing the survival of human life on this beautiful planet.
Living in Mexico for 40 years and witnessing severe environmental degradation had already developed a certain sensitivity to ecological themes, but the link to spirituality from a feminist and lay perspective needed to grow! My gateway to understanding the new paradigm came through the spiritual wisdom of Sr. Mary Driscoll in June 2010 when the leadership of the Maryknoll Lay Missioners unilaterally decided to close the Mexico region. After 25 years as a lay missioner, they gave me and five other lay missioner companions our walking papers. From my perspective at the time, their action totally pulled the rug out from under me and threw me into a rudderless identity crisis! Providentially and a sheer blessing, I spent an afternoon with Mary at the Motherhouse that helped get me back on keel and she agreed to participate in blessing me at a Mass in the Bethany chapel which marked our formal and very painful dismissal. Besides her blessing, she also gave me her copy of Radical Amazement by Judy Cannato, which pulled me back from the brink and set me happily and hopefully on a new course. Her loving guidance once again changed my life. Although these reflections may seem somewhat outside the realm of what is usually discussed, they are now of great importance for me and I want to share them with you, women who have gifted and inspired me in so many ways, companions in a sincere and common search at an earlier stage of our lives.
The new cosmology emerging from humanity’s growing scientific prowess (the theories of evolution, relativity and inventions like the Hubble telescope), has presented us with a new universe story that fundamentally challenges most religious structures. It demonstrates that all creation (that is, all energy and all matter) came into existence approximately 13.7 billion years ago through a single cosmic event, a flaring forth, usually called “The Big Bang”, showing us that creation is not a static, fixed, once-and-for-all event, but rather a “cosmogenesis”, an ongoing act of creation and creativity. It places humanity in the position of being “nothing less than evolution become conscious of itself”, to quote Teilhard de Chardin. In us, homo sapiens, (the only ones who know that we know), the evolving universe itself is capable of self-reflection, a realization that necessarily pushes us to understand ourselves differently. What is mind-blowing is the insight that says:
“What we as human beings envision, what we dream and desire, what we hope for and work toward – all of it affects the universe, all of it has its impact on Earth and on every single creature that is. Our gift of consciousness is both amazing and demanding. Our capacity for awareness is both central and essential.” Radical Amazement, p. 57
Change that leads to transformation is rarely ever top-down, but more often, inside-out. We tend to believe that most of us do not and cannot make much difference in the great scheme of things. The new cosmology teaches that noticed or not, every conscious act that gives witness to new possibilities and greater awareness contributes to the transformation of the whole. In other words, there is no such thing as an insignificant thought, word or action. Each act of love, courage and strength shifts the energy and increases the potential for others to also become aware. We seem to know intuitively that no matter what we do, we are always affecting the energy around us, in either a negative or positive way. Intentionally creating fields of kindness and care produces an environment fecund (prolific) with life and healing, allowing us to move out of egocentric or fear-based behaviors and into the kind of living that Jesus meant when he said, “I came that you might have life and have it in abundance.” Living in plenitude (very different from the gross accumulation of objects that is worshipped by some) is therefore possible, but only if chosen – one small action at a time, just as the universe evolved over eons, one tiny evolutionary step at a time.
“Our ancestry stretches back through the life forms and into the stars, back into the beginnings of the primeval fireball. This universe is a single, multi-form, energetic unfolding of matter, mind, intelligence and life.”
Brian Swimme quoted in Radical Amazement, p.56
This new worldview also challenges our ideas and images of God… The idea of a God who is only concerned about human beings who are like us or who should be like us, just doesn’t cut it! The new cosmology includes all creation and is large enough to include the immensities of the billions of galaxies in the universe. In this vision, we are all connected, each and all of us an important part of the unfolding, expanding universe that beckons our participation. It makes evolution a creative process emerging from within each creature according to its nature, achieved through the internal urgings of the Spirit of “incomprehensible Holy Mystery”, a term used by Karl Rahner to name God.
In our times, we observe that more and more people are alienated and leaving religious institutions because they no longer present a viable premise for belief. We also observe a great thirst for spirituality, but religion has been very slow to embrace what science has unquestionably discovered. In my opinion, the churches in general have been focused almost solely on Redemption, and to their peril, they have greatly ignored the very first and perhaps foremost revelation of God’s being – the created and unfolding universe! As Judy Cannato explains:
“The understanding that redemption is necessary because humanity had a fall from God’s grace does not make sense in an evolutionary context. If all the life that we know began with the Big Bang, and we have been part of an evolution of increasing complexity and consciousness for 13.7 billion years, there is no former Paradise to which we may return. Jesus’ living and death is not about a return to the past, but a promise for the future – a future of harmony in which all of creation will realize its unity in the love of the divine.” Judy Cannato, Field of Compassion, p. 58
The challenge then is to live out the connectedness that is our fundamental reality. We cannot choose NOT to be connected; we can only attend to the quality of the connections in our lives. We have been urged to be holy, and the new cosmology is teaching us that genuine holiness pulls us into the awareness of the immensity of who we really are – co-creators with the Holy One, responsible for choosing life and empowering one another as we contribute our seemingly insignificant daily energies to the ongoing unfolding of divine love in the universe.
Our generation is the first in all history to know empirically that the universe came about through the Big Bang. In 1964 (the year before we entered Maryknoll!!), microwave background radiation was discovered, enabling astronomers to “see” the universe approximately 380,000 years after the Big Bang! It is only in our lifetime that images of billions of galaxies, each with billions of stars, the remnants of the original flaring forth, have actually been seen! Images from the Hubble Space Telescope show us with incredible clarity just how exquisite the universe is. We are among the first humans to see Earth from afar, a delicate blue marble suspended in space without artificial boundaries, just a unified biosphere of indescribable beauty.
“A flourishing humanity on a thriving Earth in an evolving universe, all together filled with the glory of God – such is the theological vision and praxis we are being called to in this critical age of Earth’s distress.”
Elizabeth A. Johnson, CSJ in Radical Amazement, p.135
To end, Judy Cannato asks:
“As evolution continues, will our self-awareness increase to the point that we become a new species, Homo universalis, universal humans with the capacity to integrate the tension between our unique self-expression and the needs of the Earth community, creatures with the capacity to live in radical awareness of our connection to each other, to the entire universe, to the divine? We are on the cusp of an evolutionary breakthrough, one that requires our conscious participation in Radiant Love, one that requires us to live and act as co-creative agents of Love itself, to do the works that characterized the life of Jesus – and more!”
Radical Amazement, p. 76-77.
In my life today, this is the “tip of the iceberg” because these reflections go so much deeper. They are now the taproot of my personal evolution and spirituality. They give meaning and purpose to my life. With great gratitude and rejoicing, they empower me to re-envision, and to continually strive to renew my connections to Holy Mystery, to my spouse, my children and grandchildren, friends, colleagues, my marginalized and excluded sisters and brothers, our violated and degraded mother Earth, my vegetable garden, my recycling and composting, my purchases and the cosmos at large!