“Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?”  He answered him, “Why do you ask me about the good?  There is only One who is good.”

Mt 19:16,17

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This is the beginning of the Parable of the Rich Young Man and the initial question of the young man and the response from Jesus. This simple exchange raises several important issues.

Is good and doing good merely a ticket for our eternal life?  Is it a means to an end?  Is it reduced to a thing, made an object?  Or is good deeper than that, more than that?  Is it built into us?  In our soul?  That which we seek because it brings peace and contentment, our happiness, our wholeness?  If we are made for God and relationship with God who alone is complete Good, do we not seek God and good more than eternal life?  Are we not fulfilled by living the good that is in us, in our soul?

It is said that “Goodness needeth not to enter into the soul, for it is there already, only it is unperceived.”  To understand this is to understand virtue, the human person, the soul, the supernatural, what is sacred and itself eternal and everlasting.  But do we see this? Know this?  Live this?

Our culture conveys little or nothing of this.

The images we see day after day, especially on television, are the opposite. Endless crime stories,  shows that place us inside prisons, ads for violent video games, movies of end-of-the-world blood baths.  But perhaps the worse of all are the weight-loss ads pegged to woman.  They all say the same thing: I am 50 years old and lost 50 pounds, I am now able to wear a smaller dress size or bathing suit and my husband thinks I’m sexy.  Really, but are you good? Are you a whole person or merely a body? No evidence of good in these dominant messages.

I have known good people.  They are a blessing.  Women in particular.  They are calm, content.  They exude beauty.  Their demeanor is gentle, their eyes sparkle, they do not quarrel, they prosper in all circumstances, they reassure and are confident and that confidence arises from their relationship with God. They comfort and show their strength in that.  But they are not what our culture produces or encourages.  Rather they wisely conform to their God-given nature. We should learn from them.

“Goodness needeth not enter into the soul, for it is there already …”

Think of the price you pay for a godless culture.  Why let such a price be passed to you?  It does not present contentment.  On the contrary, it kills the soul and robs you of your identity.

Shalom.

It is good to hear Truth tucked into the daily, routine give-and-take of conversation.  If you listen with ears that, from practice, have become attuned to faith, you will hear Truth more frequently and be the beneficiary of it.

I had such an experience this week.

At midweek I attended a 5:15 p.m. Mass at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart here at Notre Dame and, as is usually the case I ran into a good friend Joe Mulligan, who greeted me warmly and said, “Mike Price was just asking about you a few minutes ago.”  Then Joe said, “Mike, asked me why I didn’t join religious life like Bob did.”   Joe apparently gave a nondescript and unconvincing rebuttal intended to side step the notion of his entering religious life.   And, Mike responded in levity, “If they took Bob in, they’ll take you.”

Truth.  Truth.  Truth.

Our faith is a faith of revelation and mystery.  These two things cannot be separated – and, yes, if God called me – God calls all.  That is the brilliant and inexplicable thing about God, God’s way, God’s plan, God’s love … and I would add the proof in my case that God surely has an active sense of humor – as in: “I’ll call Bob and get them all atwitter and thinking!!!”

Think of it this way: God raises up the lowly.  Is it not the case that someone in class always gets the lowest passing grade?  That’s me, Friends – and I am proud to serve, serve as a sign that if Bob is called, all are called.

Come on it, the water’s fine!  Revelation and Mystery, folks.

Shalom.

To understand what is, you have to be undisturbed, undistracted, you have to give your mind and heart to it.

Krishnamurti

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To be.  To be alive.  To experience.  To experience what is.  To experience being.  To experience what being is.  To do these things requires detachment from all that interferes, especially what clutters the mind, and stirs the senses.

Detachment.  It means quiet.  Being at rest.  Silence.  Nature.  Easy breathing. Being stationary.  Relaxing.

How infrequently we do this?  How vital it is to do.

If you are constantly engaged, you are constantly lost.

You are free to disengage.  Do so.

Shalom.

These men … hold Christ responsible for the evils which they deservedly suffer for their wicked lives.  They have not the slightest appreciation of the fact, that, when they deserved to be punished, they were spared for Christ’s sake.  On the contrary, with impious perversity and bitterness, they attack His Name with those very tongues which falsely invoked that Name to save them.

St. Augustine, in City of God

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This is St. Augustine writing about the Romans as their empire was falling and they turned to blame Christ for their troubles.  Think of its application to us, now.

Once prosperous and victorious – spared the devastation of the Second World War, we turned dramatically away from God and to ourselves.  Yes, we prayed for God’s protection when we feared the worse – now “with impious perversity and bitterness” we “attack His Name.”

When you listen to the news or watch it on television or read the newspapers today, ask yourself: Does this man or woman speak of Christ?  Act in faith?  Do our nation’s actions reflect faith?  Show Christ?  Show any sense of the necessity for faith in life and in the nation’s life?

Where are the wise elders?  Have the perished?  Gone speechless?  And what of the godless voices?  Why do we listen?  Why do we not actively dismiss them?  Exile them as they have exiled God?  Where is our courage?  Do we welcome the silent coup of lawless executives?  The idle and empty-headed legislators who care only to get their way and fill their pockets?  The prideful ideologues? Those who disarm us?  Divide us?

Do the weak and selfish ever defend you?

What good does it do to pray at dawn and remain silent all day?  Is faith for small places?  Does the civic square not require it?  Is God for our private consolation?  Are we frightened to be seen?  Heard?  Known?

What kind of land does not come to the aid of its friends?  Maintain a vigil for freedom?  Stand against a bully’s aggression?

And what are we to do with the godless in authority?  Let them govern?  Or raise more hell than corn?

He who loses wealth loses much; he who loses a friend loses more; but he who loses courage loses all.

Miguel de Cervantes, 1547-1616

It is what it is.

Shalom.

If you love me, you will keep my commandments.  And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate be to with you always.

Jn 14:15-16

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This passage is from the Last Supper Discourse and it raises a very interesting question: will all receive the Holy Spirit and His contemplative gifts (Advocate) or just those who love Christ and kept His commandments?

St. Thomas Aquinas takes this view: the Spirit and Spirit’s contemplative gifts will be denied in proportion to one’s attachment to, belonging to, and love of the things of the material world.  The point being that two contrary things cannot exist simultaneously in the same place.  The one occupied with this world cannot receive, understand nor enjoy the things of the World Beyond even when such a world permeates the material world.

You know this from your experience.  You have had many conversations with others to whom you simply cannot “get through.”  They are anchored in this world and all its small and narrow ways, its greed and fears and selfishness. People like this do not know the Spirit.  You can see this in their inability to contemplate, to think deeply and gain wisdom and truth.  One class of person is always disturbed and the other knows calm and the peace of Christ, of God.

” … the soul infected with the corruption of the world has no taste for the joys of heaven.”

St. Thomas Aquinas

Does this not explain how politics can never satisfy the soul, but rather only disturb it?  Those who promise heaven on earth through politics know nothing of heaven and care not of it.  They do Satan’s work; they separate us from Truth.

Do you see where so many troubles come from?  The modern age as we have it now is lost, far distant from what we know in faith.  See what is happening to the Christians in Iraq.  See what happens here at home.

Shalom.

Very early in the morning after the sabbath, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb, just as the sun was rising.

From Morning Prayer on July 22, the Memorial to Mary Magdalene

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The radical Moslem group ISIS set ablaze an 1800 year old Catholic Church in Mosul, Iraq this week.  Previously they dug up and destroyed the grave of the Prophet Jonah in the same area.  They have driven the once plentiful Christians from the area, confiscating their money and valuables as “Islamic property.”  Our government has done nothing.

Nor have they done anything to support Israel who was attacked by the radical Moslem group Hamas.

Charles Taylor, the esteemed Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at McGill University and winner of the Templeton Prize in History for his book  A Secular Age, has shown us that we, in the United States and in the West, are now a “Culture of Unbelief.”  That is, that we no longer find a belief in God axiomatic, alive and significant in the nations of the West, the U.S. included.

Our disinterest in the assaults on Christians and Christianity is dangerous, akin to the silence of German churches with the rise of the Nazis.

Our disinterest in faith and in Christianity goes way beyond social relations and matters of gender equality, the public place of religious symbols and practices in our land and such. No, it goes to a disinterest and ignorance, even active self-destruction, of Western civilization for Christianity is the cornerstone of that civilization.  Ditto, Judaism.

When we fail to respond to assaults on our very identity, we hasten our destruction.  Evidence the outcome for the Christians in Mosul.

Make no mistake this silence is married to an hostility to faith, especially to Judaism and Christianity and, sadly, this hostility is present in the Left today.

Will we too witness as Mary Magdalene?  Will the tomb be destroyed as the church and the Christian population in Mosul have been?  Is silence our answer?  Can overt hostility in the body politic remain unchecked?

Shalom.

” … monks … a marginal person … the monk in the modern world is no longer an established person with an established place in society … a marginal person who withdraws deliberately to the margin … with a view of deepening human experience … We live with the ingrained irrelevance which is proper to every human being.”

Thomas Merton, in The Asian Journal

This post is for those caught in the shadows of doubt.

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Faithful people are somewhat like monks.  They flirt with irrelevance, especially in a culture of diminished belief.  But take comfort this is the trajectory of faith.

But how can I say this?  Doubt is the road to faith.  In doubt is the sense of margin, the questions of worth, and of meaning and of purpose.  The thirst to know “why?”

In doubt faith arises.  Blossoms.  There is no faith without doubt.

When things spin out of control, times turn against us – doubt abounds and so too is abundant faith near, ready to emerge.

Monks: they welcome irrelevance in order to find relevance.  Faith from doubt. Are we not monks?  People of doubt, awaiting faith?

Patience.  The tide comes in and the tide goes out.

Shalom.

It is only when one has taken the leap into the unknown of total selfhood, psychological independence and unique individuality that one is free to proceed along still higher paths of spiritual growth and free to manifest love in greatest dimensions.

M. Scott Peck, M.D., Psychiatrist

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We are created to grow into total selfhood, to become psychologically mature, independent, the unique individual we are.  Only when that is done are we free to live a full and elevated life in the Spirit – and we are first and foremost not human beings but spiritual beings.  It is, after all, the spiritually mature who live to fully manifest love of others, of life itself and all in it.

Problems are the gift that helps us negotiate the journey to total selfhood. Problems cultivate us, grow us.  This is precisely why they are present in life. There are opportunities that must always be seen as the gift they are.

Never run from a problem.

But how does one work with a problem?  Well each problem has its particulars but two things are common to successfully facing a problem.  One, ask yourself – what am I supposed to learn from this?   How does this advance my growth, my independence, my autonomy, mature me?  Two, ask also this: how can I love in the midst of this?  Learn to love, become one who loves more completely, and in this becomes wiser and more settled in love and wisdom?

Of course, the path through a problem is never clear in an instant.  Problems take time, like steeping and slowly consuming a good cup of tea.  Problems have emotional depth.  Some go to our very core, to our soul.  Yes, they make of us a recognized self – they uncover us in the essence – they create in their depth and their puzzle a mist, a fog that promises illumination in our proper response to it.  The task of getting to the proper response is itself a pleasure when quietly and patiently engaged.

So what do we do in the mist, until the light appears?  Take this to prayer.  Ask for guidance?  Indeed, are you not created to grow into fullness?  So go to the One who Creates, who created you.

” … Father, it if is not possible that this cup pass without my drinking it, your will be done.”

Mt 26:42

Patience.  Problems are sacred and intimate intersections – full of power and promise.

Fear not.  See the gift.

Shalom.

On a restful morning, in a cool and quiet Saturday in July, I give you only this: something to contemplate -

Love consists in sharing

what one has

and what one is

with those one loves.

Love ought to show itself in deeds

more than in words.

These are the words of St. Ignatius of Loyola.

May the reign in you this day and each day thereafter.

Shalom.

Each one of us has a vocation.  We are all called by God to share in His life and His Kingdom.

All vocations are intended by God to manifest His love in the world.  For each special calling gives a man some particular place in the Mystery of Christ, gives him something to do for the salvation of mankind.

Thomas Merton, in No Man is an Island

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To each a vocation.  This is why being idle or converted to dependence is so destructive.  Plainly stated, it keeps you from your divine nature, from God, from happiness, your identity.

This is why we must have more young people finishing high school, learning a trade or entering college and becoming independent.

It is a great tragedy and failure that we take pride in swelling the ranks of those dependent on the state and the income of their fellow citizens to survive.  Such a disposition is godless; it enslaves and breeds explosive discontent.

Claim your vocation.  In doing so you claim your dignity and enter the world as God’s most precious child.

Shalom.

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