Church of the Planet

Q:  Throughout Scripture its always a remnant which, by grace, “get” what God is up to in any given era. Jesus called them his “little flock” or “the elect.” How, then, does that biblical pattern square with Teilhard’s vision of a large-scale super-humanized collective evolving along planetary lines? Given the natural resistances in human souls for same, seems that a “grace booster” (a mass awakening) along unprecedented global lines would have to occur in order to move that along.”


Ilia Delio Ilia: Last Friday, the Omega Center sponsored a Zoom conference on “The Sacrament of Everyday Life.”  Over eight hundred people from around the world joined in for this conversation, thanks to the genius of Zoom technology. I want to build on this gathering and at the same time address a question that was submitted two weeks ago, namely, who is the “elect” in a Big Bang universe, the little flock that Jesus refers to in Luke 12:32. My short answer is, everyone who helps evolve the universe by deepening love, uniting in peace, forgiving in compassion, and sacrificing for the sake of the whole, is part of this little flock. The member of the little flock is the evolver alive with love-energy, the sacramental participant of evolution. Such participation is not tribal but global; not a matter of one religion or  another , but a consciousness of being bound to an ultimate whole which is Love itself.

The great religion scholar Mircea Eliade wrote eloquently on myth as story and ritual that conveys deep truths of existence through narrative, symbol and metaphor. Religion is mythic.  It tells a story that imparts deep meaning to life and we enact this meaning through ritual and worship. As we move from first axial consciousness, the level of consciousness in which world religions arose, into second axial consciousness, our period of globalization and ecology, we will need new stories and rituals to vitalize our lives. Religion is in evolution and the “little flock” are those who will engage in the new Church of the planet.  Such engagement depends on how we understand God in evolution and how we see the role of the Church.  Teilhard thought widely on each topic.

Teilhard was a mystic and a scientist.  For him, science is “a process, always probing into the unknown.” So too is mysticism. Science like mysticism is not “contemplating a truth already established”; rather “it is the very act of discovery that create[s] a new truth.” “It is in these terms,” Ursula King writes, “that we must understand Teilhard’s talk of loving God … ‘with every fiber of the unifying universe.’ ”  “As scientists struggle to make sense of their findings,” King writes, they are grasping for a new unity, new horizons of insight. “The ‘fibers of the unifying universe’ come together in the scientist’s mind,” King writes, as the mind is drawn to a power hidden in matter; for Teilhard this is “dark adoration.” It is “the supreme spiritual act by which the dust-cloud of experience takes on form and is kindled at the fire of knowledge” (Teilhard, Activation of Energy). Teilhard indicates that grappling with matter leads to “troubled worship.” Entering the unknown dynamics of matter disturbs the known, including prayer and worship. It is not business as usual, for new knowledge leads to new insights, which leads to new visions and understandings, and in this respect, God continues to emerge in new ways.

For Teilhard, matter is the incarnating presence of divinity; God is present in matter and not merely to matter. This core belief is still foreign to many ears because God’s immutability seems to be compromised.  But divine immutability was based on ancient Greek ideas on matter and form, ideas that have radically changed with modern science. Teilhard is clear that God and matter are not the same:  God is not matter but God is not apart from matter either. Rather, the preposition “in” is key: God is in matter meaning that God is the ultimate horizon, the depth and breadth of matter, other than matter (transcendent) yet intimately present to matter (immanent).  To use Paul Tillich’s idea, God is the ultimacy of matter. When everything can be said about a particular form of matter, for example, a leaf (green, veined, and all its other properties), we have not exhausted that which really draws us to it, such as its beauty or light. The ultimacy of this experience, which cannot be adequately spoken or described, is God.

So when Teilhard speaks of a power in matter, he is speaking of the ultimate power that eludes our ability to grasp or measure it. Yet it is a power that is deeply experienced and draws us into it, expressed in the many ways humans invent, create and transcend themselves. Science, technology, art, music, study, writing, all are forms of engaging this divine power in matter by which we transcend ourselves.

Unless we grapple with matter — not only in scientific research but all aspects of world-unfolding life — we are missing out on the power of life itself, namely, God.

People today are searching for something to believe in, a power that vitalizes and dynamizes life.  If the God of Jesus Christ “fills all things,” as St. Paul writes, then God must be found in all things. To belong to the Church is to belong to those committed to finding God in all things. If religion is the core energy of evolution and Christ, divine love in matter, is the unifying power within and ahead of the dynamic evolutionary process; Christianity then must be a planetary faith not a political establishment. Teilhard deconstructed institutional and patriarchal Christianity and reframed the incarnation as normative of evolution, not religion. This was a radical and bold move and deeply prophetic. He spoke of the Church as a new phylum in evolution and posited a new christified species. His theistic evolution, grounded in the dynamism of God’s becoming, returns us to the root of the incarnation and the question of Jesus: “Who do you say that I am?” Similar to the Hindu Namaste, the God in me recognizes the God in you.  Christ is the entanglement of our lives in the ever-newness of God’s creative love.

Teilhard had consummate trust in the presence of God’s absolute love. HIs advice is to surrender to God here and now, in every aspect of our lives. He spoke of God as “personal Love and cosmic Power … .God who is eternal Being-in-itself is, one might say, everywhere in process of formation for us.  God is the heart of everything.” God is rising up in the world in and through us. The fullness of God’s life, therefore, depends on our participation. Our choices affect not only the world but God’s life as well.

We are encouraged to fall in love with Love itself, to dream a God who not only loves us but relies on us to move this creation to greater wholeness. God’s love should impel and encourage us to not be afraid; to dare to dream and share with God our thoughts and gifts; to use for the good of the whole. This thought should give us much hope, but also, at the same time, it should awaken us to the responsibility that we take on as co-creators with God. We share in the responsibility of bringing God’s creation towards fulfillment and completeness by the way we live, pray and act.  The Church of the planet is a global Church and thus we must help one another in this act of co-creation.

In Teilhard’s view, God’s creative power does not fashion us as though out of soft clay; it is a fire that kindles life in whatever it touches, a quickening spirit. He wrote:  “We must decisively adapt ourselves to it, model ourselves upon it . . . to increase our creative energy one must deepen thought, dilate the heart, intensify external activity.  For created beings must work if they would be yet further created.” (Hymn of the Universe, 118]  We have developed a modern mindset of individualism, consuming for our personal selves and our personal families, wondering how we can get back to “normal” so we can resume our individual habits.  But the new normal is chaotic, complexified existence.  Never before have we needed one another as we do now.   It is time to stop criticizing one another and start helping each other see through a new eye of love.  Teilhard wrote: “If all those who suffer in the world were to unite their sufferings so that the pain of the world should become on single grand act of consciousness, of sublimation, of unification, would not this be one of the most exalted forms in which the mysterious work of creation could be manifested to our eyes?” [Hymn of the Universe, 94] This means to surrender to the power of love at the heart of the world and “throw ourselves fearlessly into the crucible of the world of tomorrow” [Hymn of the Universe, 95].

We have to reorient our priorities. What do we really want and do we want it together? This is the question of being Church in the world. The idea of a single individual is an illusion and to live an illusory life is to bear the consequences of separation and isolation. Rather, we are to “live with a single passion, the desire to help forward the synthesis of Christ and the universe.”   [Hymn of the Universe, 100]

We must have hope in the Church of tomorrow and a desire to be part of its future.


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  1. Jim Foreman on January 8, 2021 at 2:19 pm

    I felt the essay gave many perspectives that are needed in this world at this time. Perspectives in my view are important to consider. Sometimes they are too small or not wide enough. This imo. is why “Religion” is evolutionary. As the times of history passes, changes of life occur, and people such as Jesus, and others offer thoughts and questions which provoke the consideration of wider and deeper perspectives. That, obviously, has occurred in science as well.
    However, once wider and deeper perspectives are found… question
    S arise as to how does one make them work on an individual and social basis?

    Here is where yourselves and readers could offer your own spiritual practices that bring a felt/experience of wider/deeper perspectives of God, Love and Life. These“Practices” can be of a wide variety…from contemplations, to meditations, and to various art forms..from breathing and movement meditations, to poetry, song, and visual arts. I explore many and will offer an exercise, two poems, and a set of current readings I have discovered that are “evolutionary”.

    An exercise on the naturalness of Loving.
    Everyone has experienced at least a few moments of feeling “Love”…whether it be while holding a newborn animal, puppy, baby, bird or other animal; or while holding hands with a friend that listens; or feeling a gentle wind across ones face while looking at the stars or a beautiful vista. There is always a moment somewhere in one’s history that speaks of love.
    Find such a moment in memory. See, hear, feel that memory as deeply as possible…AND as you do so feel that, not how you feel Love in your heart. Continue feeling that and as you breathe..feel that love in various places in your body…from the heart area to the stomach.. and
    then even to the toes and fingers if you can and want.

    Begin to notice that the feeling of that love seems to have a “Flow” to it with your breath
    and heart. Stay with that feeling of that love for while…allow it to permeate your body and mind. It will naturally do so if you have asked for and allowed this.

    I first discovered this exercise while petting my beloved cat…then noted it happened as well just by memory and extending the feelings of memory with breathwork.

    A Spiritual Poem…on this exercise.
    The Path of Faith

    The angelic oak tree breathes
    Bright sunbeams
    Exhaling crisp fragrant air
    Breathing the Creators
    Love in
    Love out

    The acorns drop groundward
    To fertilized soil.
    Planting the same
    Gentle faith
    The inward Knowing
    Without any labored toil
    Love in
    Love out
    A different form
    A different experience

    Yet some acorns fall on barren ground
    Ground marred charred
    With memories of mistaken paths
    It was deemed
    That there shall be everlasting
    Return to
    Breathing Love in
    Breathing Love out

    We too
    And all our relations
    All angelic children
    Are having the same discourse
    Different forms
    Different experiences
    Breathing Love in
    Breathing Love out

    The path of Faith.

    New Spiritual Perspectives in these times.

    A spiritual medium has in recent times published what I feel are radical new and deep perspectives regarding God, the nature of our world, and other spiritual perspectives: The Joseph Communications by Michael Reccia. The works not only offer various new perspectives; but also why they are necessary in our times. Yet the underlying principles of these works are the same as all spiritual works…God is Love, Oneness, and Continuous exploration of Love, Beauty in All Creation. Pertinent to current world dilemmas is the book “The Fall”.

  2. Kay Jackson on January 4, 2021 at 7:10 am

    I do agree! Jesus met people gathered them, spoke and taught outside. Mountain tops, beaches, beside a well in a cemetery were his preferred places to meet. Yes, he had the few ” synagogue moments ” but he seems most free outside- where the Divine is! If the Divine is within all matter, then why do we need to be within 4walls to sing our praises?

  3. Shirley Tamoria on May 23, 2020 at 8:07 pm

    Science predicted the coming of the pandemic and virologists knew it’s epidemiological pathway and timeline but the geotheosociopolitical global leadership have other agendas that led to the death and suffering of the world’s most vulnerable and more. The elderly, those who suffered generational trauma, those who already live in poverty and isolation, those who serve on the front lines are the “God particles” of the new holocaust. The pascal mystery of death and suffering is the global crossing to silence and renunciation, forced abandonment to the present moment and an invitation to contemplate and sense the “pointe vierge” as the birds begin to sing again, air quality improves and water glistens in the sunlight, parents spend time with their children only to be dashed into 15% unemployment, food insecurity, firings of the experts and the rise and fall of the powerful emperors wearing new clothes.

    I believe that convergence is cataclysmic love, natural and unrelenting that is transporting us in warp time to begin again. The pandemic is a resurgence of energy, a new starting point forging a new consciousness beyond the limits of our imagination and a new “homo naturales” emerges with powers of unforeseen breath and scope that will vaporize disparities, injustice , untruths and lead our human community courageously to sacred humility, refreshed technology after the crash and global health equity. Let the valleys be raised…

  4. Raewyn Blair on May 22, 2020 at 8:27 pm

    Thank you for building on the hope Ilia’s words offered. I just can’t quite see how it will happen, but have a feeling we will be called to that love as more people suffer, as our physical situations might change it times of scarcity we will be called to give, as people have been called to in small ways during this time of lockdown. The growth in caring has become obvious, for neighbours, and earth, and already the hope we send from our hearts to all who suffer, but also in words for those we know.
    Sent with love and gratitude

  5. scott lutz on May 21, 2020 at 9:31 am

    Thank you those words, Kevin. I have a few very conservative Catholic friends who seem to have created an image of God who mirrors their political ideals. Whenever the conversation is taken to a different level, such as ideas of the Universal Christ, the label of “new age” spirituality is used as a “put down.” I remind them that God has to be at least larger than the created universe, and deeper than any religion. Some of these good friends are even l on a mission to see others burn in the fires of hell.

  6. tom ward on May 20, 2020 at 8:35 pm

    you are in charge of the last judgement ,either god is totally in charge or god is not

  7. Santiago Ortiz on May 20, 2020 at 6:12 pm

    No pude estar en la conferencia como habría querido, pero sus palabras nos deja ver y sentir su mensaje. Gracias. Me gustaría Hermana Ilia reflexionar sobre la época de la pandemia y la postpandemia, luces para el camino y el quehacer futuro en esta nueva etapa Tan dolorosa de nuestras vidas, de nuestra comunidad y de la humanidad

  8. Anthony Nicholls on May 20, 2020 at 2:34 pm

    Thank you, Josef Weber
    .. What a breath of fresh air.
    since Vatican II I have been hoping that the church would look at the key structures and the liturgy and take firm hold of the baton passed to us by that great man, Cardinal Roncalli
    it seems as if the Holy Spirit is again getting us ready to accept a blast from the Spirit as in Vat II ,which will give us courage and discernment and love
    I.have been an enthusiastic participator in “home churches” as I spent many years in some big charismatic churches in South Africa
    The one church had over 400 home cells as they were called.
    After 10 years I was totally convinced that this was the way to go, the fruits of the Spirit were so evident and the joy was infectious we didn’t have to be told to love one another.
    I can only hope that we will be able to pursue that course in the Catholic church as it moves into the future that God has for us

  9. Kevin Barr on May 20, 2020 at 8:42 am

    I just finished reading the following section from yesterday’s “Catholic Philly”.
    “The Argentine pope’s reforms go way beyond rearranging the chairs, name plates, finances and priorities of the church’s administrative offices. His reforms include rethinking divisive issues such as the priestly ordination of married men, the ordination of women — at least to the diaconate — and the reception of Communion by divorced and remarried Catholics whose first marriages were not annulled. And then there is his bold declaration that defending the environment from climate change is a pro-life issue, shaking up some conservative Catholic groups”.

    How is it that we even consider allowing conservative Catholic groups to be the tail wagging the dog? We get so bogged down in the past and the power based male celibate structures and the whole unworthiness game. This structured and limiting environment needs to die and be born in new and creative ways like everything else! Defending the environment from climate change IS the ultimate pro-life issue and being re-formed means that all of humanity is open to boldly proclaim and embody a new spirit, vision and mission of who we are as Divine sons and daughters of God living on this earth… our sacred and evolving home.

    We must again become “PEOPLE of the WAY” … a way that lives in Radical amazement of all that God is doing in us (and in all of creation). We must become co-creators with God in this transformative process. The impetus for such a drastic “conversion” is not adherence to belief systems but surrendering our fear based, consciousness to a GREATER MIND and becoming ONE. It must be a Oneness that is fueled by both action and a deep contemplative presence. Only then will we be able to recognize in every cell of our being “the great lie of individualism” (a Richard Rohr favorite phrase) and to truly celebrate “The Sacrament of Everyday Life”.

    ILIA … Your words ring true and clear …. You are an authentic and inspiring voice in the wilderness encouraging us with a real sense of urgency to wake up! Keep up the good work.. it is indeed the “Good News” of the Gospel. Thank you!


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