Celebrating the 2 significant moments/BREATHS at birth and death






Fr. Coelho's Christmas Homily

For the Contemporary Catholics, White Robed Monks and Network

at the Presidio Interfaith Chapel, San Francisco, CA. Dec. 10, 2004


Birthing Divine Conscience in our Society



Mirror 269: My dear sisters and brothers,

I consider myself privileged to have this opportunity to break the Word of God with you, the White Robed Monks of St. Benedict and the Benedictine Network members assembled in this historic Interfaith Chapel at the Presidio in San Francisco, California on this tenth day of December, 2004. I’m grateful to the Main Officiant, Bishop and Abbot Robert Dittler, OSB, for giving me this opportunity and requesting me to speak to you as to eight year olds. I hope I’m not belittling anyone here!


In all humility, as I reflect on the Gospel passage [At that time the disciples approached Jesus and said, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, "Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me. Matthew 18/1-5] chosen for this occasion, the words of Angelus Silesius, a mystic who lived in the XVII century, come to my mind. In my opinion, he has captured the spirit of Christmas in The Cherubinic Wanderer where he writes, "Christ could be born a thousand times in Galilee – but all in vain until He is born in me."


During this homily I would like to dwell on two significant themes related to the birth of Christ in history: 1. 2000 years ago and 2. Today.


Mirror 270: The birth of Jesus of Nazareth 2000 years ago

"Christ could be born a thousand times in Galilee"


Yes, "Christ could be born a thousand times in Galilee, but all in vain until He is born in you and me." Who is this Christ that was born 2000 years ago? A recent issue of Newsweek (Dec. 13, 2004, pages 48-58) carries an article by Jon Meachem on the truth behind the birth of Christ. The Anglican theologian in an interview on The O’Reilly Factor summarized his views for the contemporary scientific mind by stating that the secular society needs to know what rigorous Biblical studies have revealed about the birth of Christ, viz., that the narratives of the birth of the historical Christ in the Gospels, especially of Matthew and Luke, are enshrouded in myth and mystery.

Beyond myth and mystery, I would like to adopt a mystical approach that is based on faith. I like the way in which the Anonymous Author of One Solitary Life has answered the question about the existence of Christ:


He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He worked in a carpenter shop until he was thirty. Then for three years he was an itinerant preacher. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He had no credentials but himself. At the age of thirty-three he was condemned on trumped up charges and nailed to a cross between two thieves. He was buried in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend. Twenty centuries have come and gone and He is the center of human history. All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that were ever crowned have not affected the life of man on Earth as much as that One Solitary Life, JESUS CHRIST: Yesterday, Today and Forever.


Mirror 271: Today the birth of the Christ in our World

"Christ could be born a thousand times in Galilee, but all in vain until He is born in me."


The contemporary religious scenario exposes us to the reality of how the United States of America, a "Christian Country," has become the world's most religiously diverse nation. Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and Sikhs work side-by-side with Protestants and Catholics. The new religious diversity is now "A Main Street Phenomenon." In A New Religious America Diana L. Eck (2001), a leading religious scholar, writes: "How Americans of all faiths and beliefs can engage with one another to shape a positive pluralism is one of the essential questions -perhaps the most important facing American society. While race has been a dominant American social issue in the past century, religious diversity in our civil and neighborly lives is emerging, mostly unseen, as the great challenge of the twenty first century."


The answer to such a challenge is not an easy one for us given our demographics in the San Francisco Bay Area. How can Jesus, the Christ, answer this challenge? It is again my opinion that Sam Keen has answered this in his book entitled Fire in the Belly (1991) where he states that


Every generation discovers a different Jesus – The Magical Savior, The Wonder Worker, The Mystic, The Political Rebel, The Labor Organizer, The Capitalist, The Communist, The Greatest Salesman Who Ever Lived, The Protofeminist, The Ecololgist. As Albert Schweitzer said, "Men searching for the historical Jesus look into a deep well, see a reflection of themselves, and call it Lord."


Mirror 272: But who is this Lord?

As I stand in front of you and look into the deep well of my personal, collective and divine consciousness I am reminded of a story. It is about a group of school kids who were enacting the First Christmas.


The children had rehearsed much, and every actor knew the part well. Johnny, the eight year-old who was acting as the Inn-keeper had to refuse Joseph with the words, "Sir, there is no place in the Inn. Take your wife and go elsewhere." On the final day, as the drama unfolded, little Johnny, upon seeing Mary, the expectant mother, forgot the script he had so well-rehearsed. Moved with pity and compassion Johnny’s heart missed a beat and without the blinking of an eye he muttered, "Come in!" It goes without saying that the play could go no further. The act was over. Everyone in the audience burst into spontaneous applause. Little Johnny’s message was clear.


Stephen Covey (2004) in The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness declares that "When the history of the world and of institutions, societies, communities, families and individuals is finally written, the dominant theme will be the degree to which people have lived not by their socialized conscience but by their divine conscience."


The message of eight-year-old Johnny is to go beyond our socialized consciousness and make place for the divine in each one of us. This is by far the greatest: "To love God and man with all your body, mind, heart and soul" (Matthew 22/37-38). May the Divine Child within each one of us be born afresh with spontaneity and freedom so that glory and peace (moima ani xanti) are possible today. This is the Lord, the word of God made flesh, that we are come to worship. "Oh come all ye faithful, oh come, let us adore Him" so that we may experience divinity in our humanity and give our personal expression of "Glory to God and Peace on Earth!"


Rabindranath Tagore, the Indian poet and a1913 Nobel Laureate once remarked that "every child comes into the world with the message that God still loves the world." God created us and sent us into the world with His message of love. The true challenge for each one of us lies in making that message of love a reality in our lives. The celebration of Christ’s birth is an occasion for us to reflect on the birth of the Divine Child in each one of us and in every child of God, so that the birth of Christ in Bethlehem two thousand years ago and in San Francisco Bay Area today are both divine. May the reality expressed by Angelus Silesius be ours today


"Christ could be born a thousand times in Galilee

– but all in vain until He is born in me."







The central mystery of Christianity



Fr. Coelho's Easter Homily

For the Parishioners, Guests and Visitors

at St. John's Church in Hayward, CA. March 26, 2005


Staying Young in the World Today


Mirror 273:  My dear sisters and brothers,

"If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above." [1 Col. iii. 1]


As Christians we are not a Good Friday Community but an Easter People -A Community of Believers- energized by the power of the Living Christ who is eternally young. It is his power that makes us energetic and fully alive to "be still and know that I am God" [Psalm 46/10].


Easter comes with the message to STAY YOUNG for "Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away" [Author Anonymous].


Mr. Walter Marston from San Francisco recently forwarded to me an email with The Dash poem. The poet Linda Ellis reflects on the dash that separates the years of birth and death on many a tombstone. The dash stands for the life of the individual. Unlike Ellis I would like to focus on the two most important breaths that describe the dash. The first breath at birth and the final breath of death. The festivities of Christmas and Easter are the celebrations of these two significant breaths or moments in the life of Christ and in the lives of his followers.


Throughout history theologians and commentators have understood the mystery and the reality of the Resurrection of Christ in a number of ways. While some have attempted to explain the resurrected body in physical terms others have described it as a phenomenon that occurs only after death.  I like the way St. Iranaeus of Lyon, an author of the first century, has described it, for "The glory of God is a human being fully alive."


Mirror 274: The challenge of the resurrection of Christ for us


The fullness of life as lived by Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, is the mystery, the reality and the glory of the resurrection. John Dominic Crossan, a Christian theologian, describes the miracle of the resurrection of Christ as parabolic, i.e. like a parable, a metaphorical way to indicate the mystery and reality of the fullness of life as lived by Jesus in the here and now, for "everyone was filled with awe and glorified God" [Luke 7/16]. Taking a cue from Jiddu Krishnamurthy, a philosopher who draws deeply form the spiritual traditions of India, I would like to describe the power of the resurrection of Christ as the meeting point of history and eternity -the explosion of the moment.


The challenge of the resurrection of Christ for us today is to live our lives fully in the present -where the two significant moments of birth and death explode both within and beyond enslaving memories of the past and anxiety-ridden projections into the future. It is indeed an explosion of forgiveness and hope! It blends history with eternity in God! It accepts the creative newness of life in abundance [John 10/10 & Brihadāranyaka Upanishad 5.1.1]. It centers a flame with no name or aim of fame or shame at life’s game! It lets go that love may grow and joy overflow in imitation of Christ crucified and risen. Now, I know better.

"Today is the first day of the rest of my life,

Today is the only explosion that truly matters."


275: Today is the only explosion that truly matters


Birth or death, fullness or emptiness are two states of breathing and being. It is much easier for us to experience THE PRESENCE OF GOD as energy, enthusiasm, excitement, happiness and other elevated feelings. There are times when we may be called to experience THE ABSENCE OF GOD in our lives - an emptiness that like a dry, weary land thirsts for water [Psalm 63/1, John 19/28]. St. John of the Cross, a Catholic Mystic of the XVI century, describes this emptiness as "the dark night of the soul." Thomas More, a contemporary author, in The Dark Nights of the Soul writes that such dark nights or states of depression have a purpose to purify, strengthen and make the soul soar to unprecedented levels of being, creativity, enlightenment and compassion. Jesus Christ on the cross experienced distress and exclaimed: "Oh God, my God why have you forsaken me?" [Matthew 27/47] ... "But Jesus, again crying out in a loud voice yielded up his spirit" [Matthew 27/50], thus redeeming the world.


Easter comes with the message to LIVE FULLY IN THE PRESENT in fulfillment of the Divine Plan [Jeremiah 29/11] for "Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away" [Author Anonymous].


The American media these days have chosen to focus on Terri Schiavo/Schindler. Some commentators have suggested that the imposed fast unto death offers a commentary on how Americans today address life and death issues. We have also been praying for Marta Romero, a courageous woman, a loving mother and grandmother, a faithful Christian and a devotee of the Virgin of Guadalupe, who in the name of Christ decided to go on a self-imposed, deliberate and a total fast on Ash Wednesday. Yesterday, I was told that her days are few and soon she'll take her last breath. [Marta Romero died on Monday after Easter, March 27, 2005 at 10am, and was buried in San Mateo, CA on April 2, 2005. Terri Schiavo/Schindler died on March 31, 2005.]


We do not know when will be our last breath! The message of Easter is clear -live every breath as though it were your last. Take a deep breath: simply breathe in radiance (Awaken), fulfilled experience life (Balance), freely breathe out peace (Center), and emptied experience glory (Delight). This is the rhythm of life with the Spirit of the Risen Lord.


"I pray by breathing." Thomas Merton

"Breathing in I smile, breathing out I relax." Thich Nath Hanh


If ye then be risen with Christ, breathe those things which are above







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