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… 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.

 

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Pray, for all men need the aid of the gods.

Homer, in Odyssey

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There was a time when it was common for men and women to account for the reality of God.  Homer wrote this 800 B.C.

Would that we think this way now.

There is humility and truth in what Homer wrote.  The irony, of course, is this: in our authentic humility we become more, not less – stronger, not weaker.

Alas, how that would change us for the better – improve the public dialogue, this nation and us.

Shalom.

 

 

“The works I do in my Father’s name testify to me.  But you do not believe, because you are not my sheep.”

Jn 10: 25, 26

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These are the words Jesus spoke to Jews in Jerusalem at the Temple.  Let’s put them in today’s context.

Yesterday a young man in Toronto drove a van down the sidewalk and killed ten people and seriously injured more.  A few days ago in Nashville, Tennessee, a young man entered a restaurant early in the morning and shot and killed four patrons and injured others.  Each young man had a history of mental health problems.

These two incidents are reminders of the Parkland, Florida, school shootings that took the lives of 17 students.  That young man also has a history of mental illness.  In that case, the public authorities totally failed to address the needs of that very troubled young man.

” … you do not believe, because you are not my sheep …”

The success of Alcoholics Anonymous is dependent on recognition of the existence of God (“a higher power’) and on our limitations to address our problems as if we are that “higher power.”

It seems to me that the constant signs of our neglect of those in need and the violent actions of those who (in their deranged state) randomly kill innocent people is an indication of our neglect of our own spiritual needs.  

I think too of the two lesbian women who adopted six foster care children and retained custody of those children while having had run afoul of child welfare officials in three states.  As you recall these two women drove a vehicle (with the children in it) off a California cliff to their collective deaths 100 feet below.

We are a troubled nation because we have forsaken belief … because we have neglected our full health, our need for spiritual sustenance.

Indeed we live like we are each a god unto our self.  We are, in this regard, absolutely NOT helped by all the discontented “special pleaders” in politics and particularly the angry godless voices on the Left who create division and disorder and their counterparts in the Democrat Party in the U.S. Congress, the federal bureaucracy and in state and local government.  Yes, godless voices breed sickness and hostility.

Let’s be honest, we awake each day to read or hear about one or more horrific accounts of murder, child abuse, infanticide, abhorrent sexual assaults, or some form of human deprivation that is beyond our imagination or understanding … and we see day after day the utter failure of authorities to do much of anything about these matters.

You know I recall the hubris of Mr. Obama who boasted about fundamentally transforming America and that no one seemed ever to ask in what form this change might take, nor did anyone dare to say to him: “Hey, pal, you’re NOT God and you have accomplished nothing thus far in your life.”

The point to be made?  Man is not God.  Heck, we are not now even clearly showing that we are the Shepherd’s sheep.

Might be time to believe again.  But do we have it in us to be humble as we once were?

Shalom.

Warped Self-interest – No Democrat Senators on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted in favor Mike Pompeo for Secretary of State.  They did so largely to deprive President Trump the person he wanted in that position.

Mr. Pompeo, a former Congressman and Director of the C.I.A., graduated first in his class at West Point and first in his class at Harvard Law School.  He has had both a successful military career and an excellent business career in which he started (as I recall) two successful businesses.

When you think that we have had recently both Hillary Clinton and John Kerry as Secretary of State (neither of them who achieved any particular success in their lifetime), it shows you that Democrats always put their own interests before the interests of the Nation and its people.  Shameful.

Nicodemus, who had first come to him by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds weight … Now in the place where He crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had been laid … they laid Jesus there.

Jn 19: 39, 41, 42

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One hundred pounds of myrrh and aloes.  An unused, new tomb in a garden.  And Nicodemus, a Pharisee, had come at night to speak to Jesus (Jn 3:1-18) knowing that his colleagues condemned Jesus.  Yet, Nicodemus appears to anoint Jesus’ dead body with valuable spices and gives to him a tomb.

From skeptic to Believer.  That was Nicodemus.

He came to see that Jesus was the Messiah who the Jewish people awaited.  

Mind you, it was standard practice that the bodies of those who were crucified would be taken to a trash site and thrown among the rubbish and waste.  Nicodemus (and Joseph of Arimathea) would not let that come to pass.

It is said that the myrrh and aloes were likely intended for Nicodemus burial.  Indeed, one hundred pounds of these spices were very valuable and quantity sufficient to bury a king.

In his belief and love and devotion of Jesus, Nicodemus gave of himself and in doing so proclaimed Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God.

Would that you be Nicodemus.

Remember, Nicodemus was a Jew and under Jewish law touching the body of a deceased person made the one unclean.  Yet, here is Nicodemus in his actions proclaiming the new law of Christ.

In Nicodemus we see one who dared not come to Jesus in daylight – but radically changed his life because of the Light of Christ.  Amazing.

Would that you be Nicodemus.

Shalom.

Lots of talk, but no action.  Washington and the national news media spends all sorts of time piddling away at this or that allegation designed to delegitimize President Trump – but spends no time on Hillary Clinton, her lawyers, political consultants, her staff and cohorts of one sort or another when it is obvious that multiple laws were broken and national security was badly compromised.  Washington and the media simply ignore this – and ignore the conduct of those associated with the Clinton Family Foundation and those in the Obama government whose conduct also seems to raise questions of illegality.

You know when the law is NOT applied equally to all – people will (rightfully) treat the law and those who govern as null and void.  We are headed in that direction – each a law unto himself or herself.  Liberals seem intent on destruction.    

Easter Saturday, March 31, 2018

The single most common complaint I hear from psychotherapy patients about their therapists ( … [including] secular-minded psychologists and social workers …) has been that they did not or would not listen to the spiritual aspects of their lives.

M. Scott Peck, M.D. in Further Along the Road Less Traveled

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Peck is identifying here what is missing in psychiatry and what I see as a reality in American secular culture at large: we dismiss spiritual existence – its place in the life of human beings – in the health, happiness, stability and prosperity of human beings and the citizen within the dominant and demanding secularized state.

Peck proceeds after the above to tell of his work with a schizophrenic patient who had been hospitalized for a number of years.  The patient suffered from bouts of depression, delusions, social isolation, apathy and severe suspiciousness.  She was unable to maintain employment or social relationships.  She manifest a profound ambivalence, flat affect and extreme social mal-adeptness.

Her failure to improve under psychiatric care labeled her “a lost cause.”  Yet, in the course of her confinement she began to engage religion, at first in a very tentative way – but over time she became a person whose faith gained depth.

A regular attendant at Mass, her theology was normal and her understandings of her faith was (according to Dr. Peck) “quite sophisticated.”  Ironically, she prayed regularly for Peck and while he reports that there was no significant change in her schizophrenia or social skills – she (as Peck observed) made “immense growth in her soul.”

The analogy, of course, between this patient and our present day culture is clear.  Shunning faith and spiritual existence, we show no improvement – indeed, we continue to deteriorate.  Is this not a “wake-up” call on this Holy Saturday?

Remember Mark 5:1-20, the story of Jesus and the Man Possessed.

Shalom.

 

Palm Sunday, March 25, 2018

Relationship to the Self is at once relationship to our fellow man, and no one can be related to the ladder until he is related to himself.

Carl Jung, M.D., in Collected Works XVI

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Honest self-examination is critical to one’s growth and development, to wisdom, healthy social relations, contentment, autonomy, loving and being loved, confidence, humility and a rich and deep understanding of faith and God.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus is constantly having to respond to those who ask who he is, and especially to the Jewish authorities who questioned him in an aggressive way.

Jesus responded always in the same self-revelatory way.  He told all who he was.  There is a stunning lesson to be made in his responses and it is this: know who you are … and as a Christian recognize that you are a child of God.  In this one thing is psychological and spiritual health.  Absent this: sickness, confusion, heartache, unnecessary suffering, division, hostility, depression, addiction and self-destruction.

The choice is presented.

Shalom.

The two worlds, the divine and the human, can be pictured only as distinct from each other – different as life and death, as day and night.  The hero ventures out of the land we know into darkness … his return is described as coming out of that yonder zone.  Nevertheless – the two kingdoms are actually one.  The realm of the gods is a forgotten dimension of the world we know … the exploration of that dimension … is the whole sense of the deed of the hero.

Joseph Campbell, in The Hero of a Thousand Faces

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Easter approaches.  But do we think of Christ the Hero who joins again the divine and the human in “the two kingdoms that are actually one?”

Yes, this is the time for our unification of the divine with the human – a reminder that we live in but one kingdom – whole and divine … that we are made whole and divine!

I am often struck at how it is that we live as if there is no recorded human story over all these years of human existence and how in our ignorance we miss the obvious truth and significance of the essential and repeated stories of the Hero, the sacrifice – the rule of the Divine over all from Age to Age.

Our Easter celebration occurs in many forms in varied cultures, religious narratives and ancient stories – making it all the more True, and making us in our ignorance all the more in need of wisdom and sight that is not blinded by our badly mistaken assessment of our own importance.

In our political life we are trapped in the daily event – unable to connect history’s dots.  We live so superficially – and listen to the most inane dribble day to day.  In this small frame of mind we fumble about, pontificate, content to be doomsayers, hopeless, foolishly assertive grand problem-solvers, faithless.

Shortly after the above passage Campbell questions the Hero who returns, thus: “Why attempt to make plausible, or even interesting, to men and women consumed with passion, the experience of heavenly bliss?”  He notes it is just as easy to “commit the whole community to the devil.” Yet, he notes for the Hero comes “the work of representing eternity in time, and perceiving in time eternity.”

Christ descended into darkness for three days and arose and, then, returned to us so we might know eternity in time, and time in eternity.  But are we governed daily by the Hero’s selfless deed?

In Easter we meet reality.  But do we live this reality?  That is the critical, life-changing, life-saving question.  That is what you face at Easter – that one and only eternal question – that which governs mortal life and time, and eternity.

Shalom.

Hillary Kills Feminism.  Well, the poor-as-church-mouse Miss Hillary is at it again.  Traveling in India she tells us that she lost the election because White Women were directed by their husbands, male bosses and sons to vote for Donald Trump.

There you have it – the end of Feminism!  After years of listening to feminist nonsense and their howling at the moon – Feminism has achieved this one amazing thing: the White Women among their ranks now do what their husbands, male bosses and sons command!  Guess that puts an end to that “Cause.”  Take a bow, Ladies.

With Feminism dead, can gender studies be far behind?

Solo cello plays.  God’s morning canvas is muted – all the richness is shown in subtle tones.  The moist low hanging clouds have not ascended.  They wrap themselves around the mountains – a morning embrace.  The sky and land are softened and wordless silence speaks.

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There is a widespread sense of loss here, if not always of God, then at least meaning.

Charles Taylor, in A Secular Age

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The careful observer sees what Taylor sees today.  Despite all the chatter, we are lost.  Appearances to the contrary, notwithstanding the incessant breathless media mouths – meaning evades their words.  They are incapable to connecting a single dot one to another.  They possess no such skill, no sense of what a lived life is, what came yesterday and the yesterdays well before – the long string of yesterdays and the message they have offered throughout the centuries.

There is this pervasive unacknowledged sense of loss.  The words of breathless public speakers are trite, inane, senseless, contradictory, idiotic.  They stand as symbols of failure – in thought and feeling.  Their incoherence our gate to renewal.

The clueless are legions upon legions.

What is one to do in such an age and time?  Surely, escaping from the insanity – the sea of words that say nothing worthy of your time.  Escape.  But how?

Listen less.  Detach.  Withdrawal: essential and immediate.  Find silence and your heart and soul will whisper to you, speak softly – call you back to health and the insight that brings stability, understanding and wisdom.  God dwells in silence.

The task today is separation.  From that tranquility and God’s presence within you and about you.  There is simply no other way to stay dry and warm but to get out of the cold dark sea that swirls around you.  Come, wrap yourself in a soft blanket and let the sun fall on you.

Shalom.

“Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”

Jonah 3:1-2

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These are the words of God given to Jonah, the reluctant prophet, who was tasked by God to bring a message of impending doom and the need to repent to all in Nineveh.

This morning I awoke to hear on the radio of young high school students who assembled in the Florida state Capital to urge members of the legislature to toughen existing gun laws.  In the radio broadcast I heard a young girl weeping and moaning in disappointment because upon the students’ arrival the legislature had taken a vote that very day to reject a gun control proposal.  Poor misguided child.

With this radio report, one thinks of Jonah and Nineveh and the King of Nineveh’s proclamation that his entire population shall repent from their evil ways and violent behavior (which they did).

High school kids and Nineveh.  What is missing?  God is missing.

Our education system and culture teaches us not to rely on God, but rather the false notion of our omnipotence and that of human beings and human institutions at-large.  Foolishly this imparts the view that we are God or God-like and hence capable of great things – mere humans without God.

The students (like many adults) petition the wrong body.  They look for mortals to act as if mortals are divine.  God enters not at all into the young people’s consciousness or efforts.  Their petitions ignore our godlessness … but then again their school systems shun God, and prayer, and the manifestation of anything religious within their confines.

The scene of student action and bitter reality is quite frankly a pathetic and obvious identification of precisely our collective failure – young and old.  We are those of “evil ways” and “violent behavior.”  But unlike those in Nineveh, we do not relate to God … we show no humility and heartfelt remorse. We have not repented and sought God’s forgiveness.

You know, a little religion would do these children and us (top to bottom) a whole lotta’ good.  Time to grow up … and we grow up best from the kneeling position.

Shalom.

Irony.  I will bet you a whole lot of money that there is not ONE parent or child petitioning the Florida legislature that could tell you that ISIS took control of Nineveh and leveled a Catholic Church where Mass had been said for 13 hundred years and dug up and destroyed Jonah’s grave.  Quite honestly we will not get very far acting alone and without God.  In such ways we show our godlessness – the very source of all our problems.  We are an unsympathetic mob in present form.

 

The most paradoxical and at the same time unique and characteristic claim made by Christianity is that in the Resurrection of Christ the Lord from the dead, man has completely conquered death, and that “in Christ” the dead will rise again to enjoy eternal life, in spiritualized and transfigured bodies in a totally new creation … Such a fantastic and humanly impossible belief has been generally left in the background by the liberal Christianity of the 19th and 20th centuries … (Emphasis added.)

Thomas Merton, in The New Man

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Well that pretty much explains the roiling discontent many feel in their souls each day and explains the concern one has for their children and grandchildren – their country, Western Civilization and the exile of God from culture.  That is to say – we no longer carry at our core the above understanding.

The abandonment or loss of this perspective also explains the errant notions that flood our culture: same-sex marriage, Marxism, feminism, racism (expressed even by those who were once its victims), fanciful ideas of multiple genders, liberal intolerance and the like.

Think about it.  Is there any reason for a Believer to adopt any of the popular mantras and divisive dispositions so present in contemporary culture?  No.  There is not.

If one believes that Christ in His resurrection conquered death, there is no need for doubt, discontent or division.  And, yes – Merton is quite right that liberal Christianity have abandoned the unconquerable truth that Christ was Resurrected and as Christians this Resurrection rescues us from all apprehension – furnishes us with certainty, frees us to live fully and in the Spirit.

So in a sense, the unease we see, the hostility and antagonism and their attendant expressions and assertions literally have no place among those who Believe as Christians.

As Merton goes on to say – “Christianity without this fabulous eschatological claim is only a moral system without … spirituality consistency.”  I add only “a moral system” at best; for I have seen in my lifetime the weak idea of “ethics” displace morality as surely as man has replaced God in secular culture.

Ironically, in the age of ethics we get endless rules and regulations of all things and the extraordinary result that those who author the rules and regulations seem never to be held to them.  Out with morality – and corruption flourishes while individual responsibility, freedom, and accountability of the rule-makers seems to disappear.

Without the recognition of the Resurrection we are (as we now show) but a culture inclined to chaos and decline, the loss of freedom and community, and the sickness of godless existence.  Our present trajectory, of course, cannot hold.  We are at a critical moment.

Where are you in your thinking and living?  Best turn to God and the Truth of the Matter.

Shalom.

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