Ethics is nothing else than reverence for life.

Albert Schweitzer

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I recently have had the privilege of counseling a young man who is a basketball coach at a Catholic college. The coach, who has been a successful coach at another Catholic college and who comes from a Catholic and coaching family, anticipated that his Athletic Director (AD) was going to dismiss him at the end of the season.

The young man was not angry at the thought of dismissal, he had never been fired, but he was apprehensive as to what might transpire in this process.

Sad to say, his apprehension was well placed.  I can only say that the conduct of the AD, his superior, was utterly disappointing.  His boss was without anything that resembled grace, kindness, fellowship or maturity. He was, on the contrary, harsh, rude, demanding, thoughtless, curt, impatient, inconsiderate, and needlessly hostile.  He showed, shall we say, seemingly little regard for the institutional rules or ethos which was to govern him and others at the college.

You know you have met a disordered individual when the man doing the dismissing is hostile and the one being dismissed is not.

Unfortunately, individuals like this AD are too plentiful and they occupy way too much of our time for the chaos and ill will they generate.

Yet, I am particularly concerned that those who carry the sacred value of a Catholic or Christian institution, as this Athletic Director does, do real harm to religion, faith, community, our culture and most importantly to Christ by their faithless and senselessly injurious behavior.

These people poison the well, make the living water of faith distasteful to their victims and those who observe their behavior.  All too frequently we let these people steal our heritage, destroy our way of life.  Enough!!!

The life we have, the lives others have, deserve reverence, and nothing less.

All good behavior relies, as Schweitzer says, on reverence – and I would add our demand that we and others are treated with reverence.

It is our responsibility to speak up when others, like the Athletic Director, seek to destroy our heritage, our faith, to injure Christ. Yes, aggression and destruction of others and faith enters our life event by event, person by person.

It is not the large evidence of evil that we must face but the every day presence of it – that is where the battle is fought and where it is won.

Each of us is a sentinel on a watchtower.  It is our job to speak up and to resist those who would destroy what God has made and shared with us.  Silence in the face of destructive behavior makes us collaborators in this destruction.

Who wishes to be so enrolled and so compromised?  This is the test for each of us. It is a daily test, local and personal.

Shalom.

The lips of the wise are the doors of a cabinet; no sooner are they opened, but the treasures are poured out before you.  Like unto trees of gold arranged in beds of silver, are wise sentences uttered in due season.

Khemetic Saying

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Yesterday’s presentation by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was a significant moment in American history.  “Why?” you might ask.

His words did four things.  One, he correctly identified Iran as an aggressive and expansionist nation that is hostile to us and whose conduct destabilizes the Middle East.  Two, he pointed out the serious flaws in the content of our ill-conceived negotiations with Iran regarding their development of nuclear capabilities.  Three, he identified Iran as a state that employs terrorism to reach its objectives.  Four, he reminded us that a fundamental objective of Iran as it is presently constituted is the eradication of Israel and the Jewish people.

Yet, at that he even did more – he put before the American people and the West this implicit and correct critique: we in the West have moved a great distance away from who we have been historically and who were most decidedly in the immediate years after World War II – that is, the pillar of freedom, security and civilization in a conflicted world.

The Prime Minister’s words prompt us to ask ourselves: Have we not strayed from who we are and have been?

In listening to Mr. Netanyahu, I kept thinking of the German-Russian Non-Aggression Pact of August 1939.  I pondered that neither the U.S. nor England conceived of entering an agreement with either of these hostile and expansionist entities.  We had better sense than to expect such a treaty was a workable option with either nation.

Of course, within eight days of the treaty Germany invaded Poland and in short order Russia began annexing countries to their west.  By June of 1941, Nazi Germany invaded Communist Russia.

Where did our good sense come from in 1939?

Well, the evidence of Germany’s hostile intent was visible and we heeded it. Likewise, Lenin and Stalin had shown us how Communist Russia was governed.

From 1925 to 1933, the Germans showed their hostility to Jews, Catholics and others.  They nibbled at the acquisition of land to their west.  They re-armed and were openly militant.  Their public language was hostile and aggressive, their actions dampened freedom. From 1933 to 1939 their intent to exterminate Jews was established by their actions.

Mr. Netanyahu has brought us back to that time and makes us ask: Who are we? Do we now engage in agreements with those whose actions and interests are hostile to us, our friends, and Western Civilization?  Do we act to advance the malevolent intentions of others?

Guided by faith, we can avoid mistakes and in our honesty and leadership present the opportunity to diffuse aggression in the hopes of future friendship. Less than that and we fuel conflict.  Less than that and we are less than we have been and must be.

Shalom.

… to be humble is not to stoop until you are smaller than yourself, but to stand at your full height against some higher nature that will show you what real smallness of your greatness is.

Phillips Brooks

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Stand at full height against “some higher nature.”  ” … some higher nature?” God.

Can we be humble without God, without a belief in God?  Without a relationship with God?  Humble in comparison to what?  To what but God?

It is difficult to imagine humility but for a belief in God.

We live in times of great conflict.  Today we will hear a speech in the U.S. Congress by the Primer Minister of Israel. Those who listen to it will realize we have drawn closer to nuclear confrontation in that last seven years.

A review of the news today tells me that the IRS is providing tax “refunds” to immigrants who have paid no taxes. And, that the public services unions in the nearly bankrupt city of Chicago are intent on gaining further control over the Mayor’s office by electing one of their own.

The benefit of this drumbeat of calamity, if it has any redeeming value, might be this: it might make one seek a relationship with “some higher nature.”

Constant calamity might revive humility, might teach us that we are not as grand as we think we are.  Perhaps, abject selfishness and pride and the material and spiritual bankruptcy it means might just reintroduce us to God.

One would think the threat of nuclear conflict might clear the nostrils and the head.  Perhaps even tenderize the heart and collapse our knees.

Godlessness and its calamity makes this blogger think that the life of a hermit in prayer is likely to be on the up-tick among those who say “enough.”

Shalom.

We are the hollow men

We are the stuffed men

Leaning together

Headpiece filled with straw.  Alas!

Shape without form, shade without colour,

Paralyzed force, gesture without motion; …

T.S. Eliot, The Hollow Men

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Okay, people ask: How can it be that the press and media says virtually nothing about the on-going, unconcealed genocide of Christians?  Hollow men.  Hollow men.  That is your answer.

We think too much of the press and of our present culture.  We live uncritically, looking backward – occupying yesterday to make today both a fantasy and incomprehensible.  The La-La-La people.

Humans like to avoid what is disquieting, what might awaken them.  Fear of the hard reality fuels mental strife, emotional illness, psychological problems, addictions, broken marriages and broken promises, broken people and broken families, broken lands and broken dreams, suicides and inevitable defeat.

Self-deception is a deadly thing.

Hollow men and hollow women.  They are a common coin of the common realm.

These are not deep thinkers.  They are surface only.  Appearance.  Unembarrassed to speak of things neither examined nor known.  These are not men and women who have a central place for faith in them.  Their culture, their institutions, and our times do not welcome faith, do not value it.  Do not expect a rock to speak.  It will not.

We must be better.  We are capable of more.

What is one to do?  Recognize what we have and make appropriate adjustments. Listen discreetly.  Be selective. Begin to listen to your heart and think for yourself. Fortify yourself with what is needed: self-reliance, renewed faith and the insight and courage it brings, the fight in you that it stirs, the wisdom that it promotes.

The rubber is hitting the road.  The Hollow Ones think they are floating above the ground.  Headpieces full of straw. Gesture without motion.  No different from others in the “chattering class,” the self-proclaiming elites.  We are all susceptible to this dread.

Listen to only the faithful, the wise. True to form they may not be in “high places” very often.

Shalom.

Buddhism does not seek primarily to understand … but seeks an existential and empirical participation in … enlightenment experience.

Thomas Merton, in “A Christian Looks at Zen”

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My friend Bernie, a Zen Master, and I were talking yesterday about living instinctively (that is organically, from within – stripped of reason).

Bernie began to tell me a story about how when he was a young farm boy out to check his traps he came upon a mink who, seeing young Bernie, stood on his hind legs and looked straight at him.  Bernie, in turn, raised his rifle and shot the mink hitting him in his shoulder, whereupon the mink immediately raced toward Bernie to attack.

As he tells it, the startled Bernie instinctively clubbed the mink with his rifle butt.

Yet, the interesting thing about Bernie’s telling of the story was this: when he mentioned the mink he would often say “the monk.”

“Ah,” I responded, “that was organic – living from within, no thought.”  Then I said, “It was no accident that you used ‘monk’ and you wished to use ‘mink.”

He looked quizzically at me.

My reply, “This was the monk story that you told me about.  They are one in the same.”

You see Bernie tells a favorite story of his about the beginning days of his year-long stay in a Buddhist monastery.  In the story Bernie presented himself, as was expected, to the Zen Monk after a period of Zen sitting only to have the monk, after a ceremonial bow, take up a tightly wrapped cloth and beat Bernie with considerable force around the head and shoulders, then lay the cloth club down and excuse Bernie.

The lesson the Zen monk was teaching was this: to dispatch reason, thinking – to empty oneself of intellect in favor of pure experience.

I said to Bernie, “The mink was the monk, and the monk was the mink.”  He smiled and his eyes sparkled.

We live most purely from the inside out, organically.

Shalom.

Non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as is cooperation with good.

Mahatma Gandhi

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Vladimir Putin’s chief political rival, Boris Nemtsev, was gunned down yesterday in Moscow on a bridge near the Kremlin.  He was a verbal opponent of Putin’s and opposed the role of Russia in the war in the Ukraine.  Mr. Mentsev was to have led a march in Moscow against the Ukraine war today.

Mr. Nemtsev was shot in the back several times by individuals who emerged from an auto and attacked him.

Mr. Nemtsev was age 55.

He is the sixth of Putin’s adversaries to have been killed.  Those adversaries are: journalist Yuri Shehekochikhin (died after 16 days of a mysterious illness), Forbes magazine editor Paul Klebnikov (shot from a moving car in Moscow), Anna Politkovskoya (shot outside her Moscow apartment), former Russian spy Alexander Litvinendo (died three weeks after drinking poisoned tea), former Kremlim insider Boris Berezovsky (found dead in this UK home).

We live in dangerous times.  ISIS.  Iran and its pursuit of nuclear weapons. North Korea.  Disarray on the Middle East with its rapes, decapitations, child-crucifixions, sex slave trade, mass murders, kidnappings, religious genocide (particularly aimed at Christians), overthrow of governments, arms trade, barrel bombing, anti-Semitism, Russian invasion of the Ukraine, etc.

However what makes this time even more dangerous is present federal incompetence and lawlessness, and the inane and embarrassing comments of our government “spokespeople.”

This is not a time in America when we are brimming with confidence.  Oh yes, Vladimir Putin has assured all that he will personally be in charge of the investigation as to Mr. Nemtsev’s murder.  Good luck there.

As for us: where are the leaders here?  You can’t beat someone with no one.  You can’t trump evil with inertia and incompetence, and there is no place for small-ranged amateurs when danger presents itself.

Those who do nothing in the face of evil are evil.

Shalom.

“Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”

Mk 12:17

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These are Jesus words when asked by the Pharisees and Herodians if the Jews should pay the census tax levied by the Romans.

His answer: give to Caesar what is Caesar’s.

But are we required to give to rulers what is not their’s to command?  His answer tells us “no.”

We are to retain for God what is God’s.

In his excellent little book The Undiscovered Self, Carl Jung, M.D., raises this issue: What do you do when the state and mass culture demands of the human person that which interferes with the person’s full development?  What do you do when either the state or the culture exacts from a person their soul, interferes with their full human and spiritual development?

Jung observes in his 1957 book that this is precisely the cost imposed on the human being in centralized states, and particularly in states that are driven by ideology.  These states, we know from experience, see religion as an adversary and oppose religion in public life.

Says Jung in discussing the role of the omnipotent ideological and secular state: “the more power it has, the weaker and more helpless the individual becomes.” Or think of this from Jung: “… every tyranny is ipso facto immoral and ruthless, it has much more freedom in choice of it methods than an institution which still takes account of the individual.”

Jung is making the point that the centralized ideological, secular state (Caesar) diminishes what God makes in the human person, and that its growth in power thwarts the individual’s development, and creates sickness.

Think about it.  Are you giving Caesar that which he may not claim?

Shalom.

No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

Jn 15:13

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In the first chapter of his book The Undiscovered Self, Carl Jung, M.D., makes the point that in mass culture the individual person is marginalized, becomes anonymous, loses a sense of meaning, and the mass and the centralized state becomes the apex of existence.

In present day America we say little about the psychological consequences of what Jung identifies, but there are profound consequences that result when man loses meaning.  For one, moral conscience expires.

Look at the failure of our government leaders or the Church to respond to the religious genocide we now see.  Wish to understand it?  Think about Kitty Genovese.

Ms. Genovese was a 28-year-old woman who was savagely murdered and raped on a New York street in the early morning in 1964 while those who heard the commotion did nothing to intervene.

Her murder and the lack of response by those who were aware of the assault on her, gave rise to an examination by social psychologists of the inertia of her neighbors.  The result?  The psychologists identified the “bystander effect.”

They established that those who witness a problem are less likely to respond when more than one of them witnesses the difficulty.  The point that they make is this: groups diffuse responsibility.  The larger the group the less anyone is responsible for anything.  Have we not seen this “in spades” in the federal government where no one seems responsible for anything that goes wrong, even when one or more runs afoul of the law?  More often than not bonuses are afforded those clearly responsible.

Coupling mass culture with ideology and you have a paralysis, an inability to act – a built-in bias not to act in any manner that exceeds the small and narrow mindset of your ideological view of the world.

Have an ideology that cares little about faith: why respond to those who are killed because of their faith?  It is for the ideologue a non-issue, something they cannot experience.

As to the silence of the Church, our clerical leaders have not kept current on the radical changes in the culture. Living behind walls, they have no inkling of how culture has turned against belief, and surely no appreciation for social psychology and mass communications – let alone digital communication and social media. They offer in their words as to yesterday’s people and conditions.

Yes, faith is ageless truth – but ministry and commentary requires knowledge of today.  And today, we seem unable to comprehend laying down one’s life for another.

Kitty Genovese written large.  This is a bad place to be.  A fatal place for person, faith and country.

Shalom.

The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan.

Mk 1: 12-13

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Lent.  Forty days.

A time to sit with our temptations, to face them, to examine them – to struggle with them.

In the Gospel of Matthew (Mt 4: 1-11) we learn of Satan’s three temptations.  The third, of course, is the one where Satan led Jesus to a very high mountain where he could see all the kingdoms of the world and said to him: “All these I shall give to you, if you prostrate yourself and worship me.” (Mt 4: 8,9)  Jesus responded, saying: ‘The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.’

The temptation to govern, for power.  Think of the “good” that one might do!  No, in that Satan resides.

Have we let government and power become our god?  A rather good question. What is at the center of our existence? How many of us have become dependent on government?  Does not every newscast begin with a story about government?

Ironically, the more government grows, the more the place of faith is reduced in a culture … and the weaker we become. So weak now that we are paralyzed and cannot respond to religious genocide.  We show no interest in defending those who share our faith.  Government for what?  So we might lose our love for God? For our religion?

Satan is a cunning adversary.  What looks good, is not.

Lent.  Think about the temptations of Christ.  How are they manifest today?  In your life?

Shalom.

‘ … what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’  “And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Mt 25: 45,46

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These are the words of Jesus in a Gospel passage known as “The Judgment of the Nations.”  Those who neglected others in need will be condemned and those who came to their aid will have eternal life.

Ukraine.  Jordan and Egypt, in their desire to respond to the savage killing of their people.  A vacuum in Iraq.  The Kurds.  No defense at Bengazhi.  Libya left without American presence or support.  Yeman evacuated.  Israel abandoned.  No particular response to ISIS.  Negotiating with a terrorist state.

The cost of not believing.

We once believed.  We use to help.

Think about it.  Is this who you are?  Is this who we are?  Who speaks for you?  Do you speak up?

I believe love is the most courageous act of which a human being is capable.  The word courage even stems from the root word for “heart” (coeur).

Vanna Bonta

No faith, no courage.  No courage, no love.

Shalom.

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