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… the chief priests and the Pharisees convened a council, and were saying, “What are we doing?  For this man is preforming many signs.  If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him and the Romans will come and take away our place and our nation.”

Jn 11:47

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Power is intoxicating and easily so.  Herein, we see the chief priests and Pharisees gathering after Jesus calls Lazarus back to life.  Their thoughts?  How can we preserve our status?  

Is this not the way of the “powerful” and the privileged?  Is this not a truth that conveys over all time?  Those at “the top” of the ladder want to remain at the top of the ladder.

Such a disposition turns one’s back on God.  ‘Tis the way of political people, the self-important, far too often.

Oddly, the strongest among us are not those at “the top,” but those who are humble and guided by faith, knowing full well there is a God and they are not God.  In their mortal existence the strongest are immortal by choice, by faith, by belief.

It is an old story – one we prefer to neglect.  Offered a Messiah, we guard our vaunted place in the pecking order.  This is tedious to those who know and believe.  Tedious indeed!  Why concede the tedious ones a grant of authority?  Would you not prefer those who welcome the Messiah be those who lead?  Are they not the wiser?  Braver?

Where are you on such things?

Shalom.

 

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The transformation of charity into legal entitlement has produced both donors without love and recipients without gratitude.

Antonin Scalia

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These words are from an address given by former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome in 1996.

Among his observations are these:

  • “a Christian should not support a government that suppresses faith or one that sanctions the taking of innocent life”
  • he knows of “no country in which the churches have grown fuller as the government has moved leftward”
  • the most religious nation in the West (the U.S.) is a capitalist society that is “least diluted by socialism”  (Emphasis added.)
  • since FDR’s New Deal, the U.S. has taken on the increasing role of a welfare state (i.e., taking tax proceeds of all and dispensing them to select individuals and groups that are deemed “needy” – and building political constituents in the process)
  • “Christ’s view was that you should give your goods to the poor, not that you should force someone else to give his (to others)”  (Emphasis added.)
  • “to the extent that the states takes upon itself one of the corporal works of mercy that would have been undertaken privately, it deprives individuals of an opportunity for sanctification and deprives the body of Christ of the occasion for interchange of love among its members”
  • the welfare-state does not contain or convey the Christian virtue of altruism
  • “governmentalization of charity effects … the donor but also the recipient … What was once asked as a favor is now demanded as an entitlement … the teaching of welfare socialism is that the world owes everyone a living.”

What Scalia lays out is the decline of the role of faith in secular culture – and with it the loss of moral conduct long displayed by acts of religiously inspired service.

Likewise socialism fundamentally changes the way humans experience themselves, others and the nature of fellowship and community – indeed it blunts the power of love and hope … it deprives us of faith and sanctification.

Make no mistake, religion and God have been shunned in the post-New Deal environment – and, frankly, when moral conduct is not fostered through a population who has an active faith – hostility and faithless division takes its place.  There we become a troubled and self-destructive culture with less opportunity to make of us brothers and sisters to one another.

Converting to socialism and BIG government is, quite simply, destructive.

Shalom.

It has been said that no great work of literature or in science was ever wrought by a man who did not love solitude.  We may lay it down as an element of religion, that no large growth in holiness was ever gained by one who did not take time to be often long alone with God.

Austin Phelps

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We are social beings.  We prefer others to being alone.  But is that where our peace is?

Think about it.  You have met hundreds of people and you are with scores of people weekly.  You have extended family members but no matter whether family or friends or those you encounter in number – you have only a few people with whom you share completely and who share with you in the same manner.  There are but few you can count on.

Maybe we miss the point that we are made for time with God, time alone with God.

You know when you get to be 70 being alone is a common part of each day, your months and each year.  Many of those who have been close to may well have died or retired and moved away. – and your children, as adults, are busy with their work, life and family.  What once was, is no longer – you spend time alone.

But that is likely how it is meant to be.  Age is a time to sum up – to reflect, take account of a life lived.

The “taking account time” is time with God.  Use it wisely.  Be at peace.

You cannot maintain yesterday’s status quo.  Life moves like the ocean tide and you are like the wave which laps on the shore and dissolves in the sands of time.  There is no shame or sadness in this – it is God’s way to eternity and Him.

Shalom.

If the word is lost, if the spent word is spent / If the unheard, unspoken / Word is unspoken, unheard; / Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard, / The Word without a word, the Word within / The world and for the world; / And the light shone in darkness and / Against the Word the instilled world still whirled / About the center of the silent world.

T. S. Eliot, in Ash – Wednesday

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Between World War I and World War II, the American Eliot joined the Anglican Church.  In his poem Ash – Wednesday, he works out his commitment to Christ and Christianity.

His words might serve is well in the time we now share – a time of disintegration, and violence emerging from within, with hostility on display and a legislative body “of the people” which does not legislate … does not work, and leaves the task of governing to executive fiat, the force of bureaucracy and oft-enfeeble courts of law.

We have become too comfortable, too fat, too expectant, too brittle with false thoughts of self to the exclusion or our whole being, or the others standing near.  Free speech fades as the voices of intolerance grow louder.

We have lost a generation to education – not of what has worth but rather degrees in “studies,” ideological droplets tailored to bias and division : “studies of gender,” “women studies,” “white privilege studies,” “Black studies,” “Latino studies,”  “Immigrant studies” … We no longer teach how to reason, think, explore, build relationships, maintain an open mind, defend the rights of all, turn to God and prayer …  Having won the war, this is our postwar debris, our landscape –  homeless heroin users in San Francisco, burnt headless animals left to intimidate a public servant, shameless vulgarity, value shaming in many forms delivered by moral vagrants, legions upon legions trapped in government dependence and no expectations … talk of injuring others – – – innocents no more … blood nears …

Do you hear the Word?  That which is and was before all time – Word waiting to be heard?

Time is ripe for a return to the Word – for word in action, word making us solemn and assured – unafraid … Shepherds seeking their sheep danger notwithstanding.

We seek our sheep in twilight, as night closes and violence and division grow … 

Poor sheep, what will the Shepherds do?

Shalom.

 

… it came to pass … that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world would be taxed …

Lk 2:1

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This census, of course, required each person in the Roman Empire to assemble in their ancestral village or town … and this was a prelude to Jesus birth in Bethlehem as Joseph and Mary journeyed from their home in Galilee in accord with Caesar’s directive.

How many note the significance of Jesus being born at a time when the entire Roman population was assembled as a whole?  My point being that the birth of Jesus has characteristics to it that proclaim something quite special in this birth.  Illustratively, the birth of Jesus heralded the assembly of all.

Yet, there is more.  Jesus birth in a manger among farm animals makes the statement that the child’s presence exceeds mortal reality – but rather speaks to all creatures and creation.  Yes, Christ is for and of the whole of this world and the next.

Indeed, shepherds and kings come to his place of birth.  Is this not a proclamation that in Christ the humble and exalted are but one in the same?

Yes, the circumstances of this birth speak to us of its universal and eternal importance – but do we think of this in our own time?  Is this a point of reference for us?  Does this magnificent birth inspire us?  Motivate us?  Lead us in our daily existence?  I dare say: “it does not.”

Does not the star that led others to Bethlehem speak to the cosmic significance of this holy birth?  Does it not say that each birth is God’s intention?  Yet, who are we now?  Do we see these things?  Are we comforted and governed by them?

Shalom.

 

A Reflection

The drama of the archetypal life of Christ describes in symbolic images the events of a conscious life – as well as in the life that transcends consciousness – of a man who has been transformed by his higher destiny.

Carl Jung, M.D., in Collected Letters (Volume 11)

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Who among you sees Christ in your life?  That is – associates Christ in your very existence?

Do you not know that Christ is the pre-existent Son of God in the manner that you are His pre-existent child?

Rest assured that Christ is our sacred archetype … that we are as Christ and are to live and be, and die as and with Christ – as He was, and is and will be forever as to each of us.

As an archetype, Christ leads us from ego to Self, True Self amid the divine drama of mortal life.

In life we choose: salvation and health or a godless life stuck in our ego – never knowing Christ or God or our own person in the full.

Our best choice: a life of meaning and purpose, contentment and tranquility, wisdom and happiness, or one of calamity and continual unhappiness and discord.

Yes, we each have eternal roots.  Our origin is in God, not in each of us one by one.

We are, as Christ, called to the direct experience of life in the full – conscious and unconscious, material and spiritual, mortal and eternal.

With Christ as our template we see Light brighter than the works of the son of darkness.

The life of Christ: your guide, your template, your Divine Gift – your very identity.

Shalom.

 

Grandeur of character lies wholly in force of soul, not in the force of thought, moral principles, and love, and this may be found in the humblest conditions of life.  (Emphasis added.)

William Ellery Channing, in Self-Culture

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Yes, as Jean-Paul Richter said so simply in Titan – character is higher than intellect as intellect is function and life is the functionary.  And, yes – character comes from the soul.  It does not come from “rules of the road,” ethics, social relations, ideology, the ideas we hold, the fads of the day, self-interest, wealth, status, etc. – and it surely does not arise from finding oneself on the television or sitting on the op-ed panel of some once useful newspaper that is now far less than it ever may have been.

That said, character is less visible now in American culture than it was as short a time ago in the 1940’s and early 1950’s.

Character seems to have faded in the image culture, in a secularized land, the culture of mass communication and affluence … in the culture of the poorly-educated college graduate and the narrowly trained intellect for it is as Richter said that intellect is function and life is functionary.  Yes, living engages the soul and from the soul comes character.

It follows that a life of challenge challenges the soul and character is coaxed out of these experiences and only in character is knowing known … wisdom presented.

In our present state intellect (in its most diminished state today – so clearly seen in talking heads and people we encounter who speak of things they do not know) there is not much sign of character.

It used to be the case that America attracted immigrants who saw in this land (as was reflected in its people) those who had character – and who took on all the odds to journey here where acculturation to our ways was expected and liberty to prosper was freely offered.  But alas that is not the case now.

Now, people travel here, and like our entitled native born college-“educated” class who make a life of complaining about this country (that which used to be their country) – we find our newest entrants and our offspring seeking the largess of government and complaining that this or that is wrong, “unfair,” disadvantaging in some way (as to gender, sexual practice, race, ideology, etc.)

In all of this it seems we must say: character and individual achievement is far less visible than it was 60 years ago.

So what is the warning?  Forget all the fluff, live from the soul outward for if the soul is denied character is lost.  Without character we become, frankly, quarrelsome and unlikeable – easily defeated.

I see, frankly, so few who exhibit the character that says of a person – “I am a soulful person. I see my origin in the grace of God.  I live beyond the narrow confines of the superficial, and the mass culture.  I take what comes and do the best I can with it for I seek to succeed as an individual, a sacred being who has been given a life and access to a land of liberty and opportunity.”

As for me, I avoid the herd and “popular culture” and my life is quieter and more meaningful in its relative solitude.  Yes, after years of putting the soul to the test, I am as whole as I might reasonably aspire to me – knowing full well that there is still hardship to come, character to be grown, and a soul that lives here and beyond.

Shalom.

 

 

 

… Christianity modeled a nobler way of life than what was on offer elsewhere in the rather brutal society of the day.  In Christianity, women were respected as they weren’t in classical culture and played a critical role in bringing men to the faith and attracting converts.  In the age of the plagues, the readiness of Christians to care for all the sick, not just their own, was a factor, as was the impressive witness to faith of countless martyrs …

George Weigel, in “The Easter Effect,” (The Wall Street Journal, March 31-April 1, 2018

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In these words Mr. Weigel is recounting how it was that Roman Emperor Constantine ended all state sanctions against Christians who heretofore were considered a danger to the ruling powers, outlaws of sorts.

In these words Weigel shows that the way Christians lived propelled their growth in Rome and across the lands to the East.  These early Christians showed others a nobler way to live, a way to live that provided meaning, access to purpose and promise, and joy as well.  This Christianity gave those who believed hope and a context in which one might live with optimism.  This Christianity offered a moral code and a way to an ordered life.

Christianity offers no less today.  But alas Christians are suspect in our land today and more to the point Christianity’s moral understandings are being dislodged from our culture.

In place of Christian moral values, we have not value-relative but valueidiosyncratic.  Each individual gets to be his own author of moral conduct.  The chaos that ensues is inexhaustible.

A little, insignificant waif (U.S. Army enlisted clerk) Bradley Manning gets to disclose troves of top secret material at will and is pardoned by a clueless President for whom both Christianity and the heritage of the West seem utterly alien.  Additionally, Edward Snowden, a contract security specialist, does the same thing and flees to Russia where he remains today with no efforts to secure his return to face the consequences of his criminal, treasonous conduct.

In contrast to the elevated place of women in early Christianity today we have the residuals of Sex in the City women – droves of women of all shapes and sizes that place their identity in sexuality and their clutch for power (that is, political in particular or mere public identity that has as to celebrity and mass communication an impact that comes not from any achievement but from having a familiar, fabricated image).

This, of course, is far enough afield from women in Constantine’s time – that it now befalls to men to model Christian values to others in a time and culture that holds men responsible for all the evils of the world (while still expecting them to lay down their lives in defense of others).

So here is “the bottom line” for us today – good and decent men and women who seek to parent children who will be immune from the ugliness of today’s culture must do and be as the early Christians  – must live by the code of conduct and morals of their early ancestors.  Failing that, further chaos and decline is predictable.  Such an ordeal hardly seems what parents and elders like me would wish for any man, woman or child.

Are you not so called?  Or do you wish to be the ones who watched as Christianity faded from view?

Shalom.

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… that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us …

Jn 17:21

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At the Easter Vigil Mass we welcomed ten people into the Catholic Church.  It was, as it always is in welcoming new members, a solemn and yet joyous event.

At the conclusion of the Mass many gathered to offer a personal greeting to the new members.  I had the pleasure of welcoming a tall, broad shouldered man and having a few warm words with him.  He was all smiles and greeted me warmly.

“Welcome, such a happy day isn’t it,” I said.  “Oh yes, it is,” he responded with a wide grin on his face as he stood within his family members.  “Sure is nice to feel the warmth and joy rather than the division that many in Washington seem intent on creating,” I offered.  His response.  “You too! … I am so sick of the division and hostility that I do not even watch the news anymore,” he said.

We both agreed that this nonsense of division must stop.

This was not the first such exchange I had with an African American.  Indeed, in the past five years or so, I have had much the same conversation and reaction.

As Christians we are designed to be one with Christ, one with God and one with each other.

When you hear the voices of division recognize them for what they are: destructive and contrary to God’s intention.

Time to turn away from those would divide us.

Shalom.

… love is by its very nature not unilateral, but bilateral, something ‘between’ two people, something shared. (Emphasis added.)

Harol Wojtyla, in Love & Responsibility

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These the words of St. John Paul II, such an extraordinary man.  For me, the most remarkable man I observed and experienced in my 72 years of life.

He writes of love.  He writes of love as a man who loved and was loved, a man who suffered, a man who knew hardship and showed enormous courage – a deeply spiritual man of great faith and great understanding.

He writes as a man of God – a man who served others not himself.

Love is bilateral.  What does he mean?

Love is interpersonal.  It joins and unites us – one to another.  It bridges gaps, distances, differences and divisions.  In love you and I become “we.”  Love is, and must bereciprocal.  There is no love of one another without reciprocity.

This is the love Christ brings us, invites us to know and share – live in and by.  This is Christ showing us God and God’s intention for each of us.  This is God – this is the divine gift – this is who we are made to be, how we are empowered to live and know God – to unite with those we love and those we encounter.

Yes, we live in difficult times – where untruth and selfishness abound.  That said, in love we are not precluded from joy, from realizing divine gift and God who is love and loves us – indeed, no deviancy we see today can triumph over God who is love and the love we have been given access to.

Our challenge today is to live in God among those who believe God is dead.

Shalom.

 

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