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The existence of evil is not so much an obstacle to faith in God as a proof of God’s existence, a challenge to turn towards that in which love triumphs over hatred, union over division, and eternal life over death.

Nicholas Berdyaev, Dream and Reality

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I am particularly alarmed at the verbiage in public discourse that conveys evil when faith is needed.  Mind you, the political rhetoric on the Left, in particular, has been most troubling … and it has ratcheted up over time and found allies in what must be a free and fair press and media.

What once was helpful dialogue has turned in time to ideology, division and too often to hatred.

In this is destruction and the foretelling of violence, if it is not halted – unless cooler heads prevail, and voices come to echo faith and wisdom, unity, good will, fellowship, compassion and community.

Let’s pause to consider evil – as our words seem to tell us now that we do not know the measure of evil, its destructive force – its capacity to destroy all in its way, tear down, maim and murder.

Think of this: “Judge, not, that ye be not judged.”  These the words of Christ.

Christ does not say we ought to be silent when evil appears – but rather that we first must judge ourselves before we judge others.

Sadly, I see not much proof of pause in the words of those so quick to accuse others of evil intent and evil acts.  So think again of Christ: “Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote in thy brother’s eye.”  (Matthew 7:5)

Today we are too quick to judge, to claim a moral ground that those who judge and condemn show no evidence of actually occupying.  Nae, what we see is ideological “got-ya” moments – the opportunity to make of morality itself a weapon of evil, a way to advance one’s quest for power, one’s idiocratic ideas and demonstratively discredited ideology.

Yes, evil is being “addressed” by evil.  There can be no greater harm done, no better way to perpetuate division and nudge us closer to more violence and bloodshed, than to hijack morality to advance one’s private desires for gain, superiority, power.  Such conduct is evil itself.

A response to evil must have pure objectives – to correct, to teach, to heal, to build relationship, advance fraternity, community, repair misunderstandings, restore justice, advance love, create a stronger bond with others, with what is right and good and lasting – to grow closer to God and others – while excising us from hatred and the craven desire for power and retribution for one’s real or imagined slights and injuries.

I close with this: those who see themselves as perpetual “victims” are consigning themselves to a life of unhappiness and anger when in their mere but sacred being they are, in reality, sons and daughters of a loving God.

Evil begets evil – until we seek the Good that is above and in us.

Shalom.

 

 

 

… it is difficult for churches, government, and leaders to move beyond ego, the desire for control, and public posturing.  Everything divides into oppositions … vested interests pulling against one another.  Truth is no longer possible at this level of conversation.

… you can lead people only as far as you yourself have gone …

Richard Rohr, in The Naked Now

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Richard Rohr writes of two monks of the 11th and 12th century – Hugh of St. Victor monastery in Paris, France, and Richard of the same monastery.  He tells us that these monks wrote that humans have been given three different ways of seeing.  One way arises from the eyes that produce thoughts.  The second way of seeing leads to reason, and to reflection and meditation.  The third way of seeing leads to true understanding and contemplation.

It is the third way of seeing that is the rarest and most evolved.  Whereas the first way of seeing is common, it produces little depth of experience, is more concrete and binds one to the immediate without nuance.  The second way of seeing allows one to relish his or her power to conceive of the material disposition of the world.  Ah, but the third way of seeing allows one to do more – it allows one to “taste” existence, to be in awe before the underlying mystery, coherence, and spaciousness that connects one with everything!

The third way of seeing is seeing as a mystic sees – seeing as God has designed us to see.  This seeing exceeds the senses, does not rest on knowledge and intellect alone – but rather sees in a manner that expands his or her consciousness – and in this is transformed, made whole, lives in and above at the same time, is mortal and immortal, contented, whole and wise in ways that neither the senses nor intellect can offer.

In commenting on this Rohr says “I cannot emphasize strongly enough that the separation and loss of these three necessary eyes is at the basis of much of the short-sight-edness and religious crises in the Western world.”  Hence the above quote that leads into today’s blog.

The view that Rohr shares, Dear Friends, highlights how and why “identity politics” is so destructive, so wrong-headed, so primitive, tribal, hostile, aggressive, hateful and unappetizing.  Those with greater depth of human experience cannot abide that which pits one against another in a death struggle.  We are, after all, not made to be enemies to one another but rather brothers and sisters to one another.

This historic moment requires us to see as the mystic sees.

Shalom.

Holy Saturday

” … You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified.  He has been risen; he is not here.  Behold the place where he laid.”

Mark 16:6

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Jesus was plunged into sorrow, but triumphed over this world and all its vices and deceits.  This said, as a Judeo-Christian culture – how can so many who say they are Christians act as if what Jesus did does not matter today?

Is it not true that if we actually believed would we put so much trust in politics, government, in seeking power, and focus all our efforts on material goods, or destructive pleasures and addictive vices?

Western Culture and this nation will rise or fall in direct proportion to our belief in God and, as Christians, our relationship with Christ Jesus.

Today our faith and traditions and founding propositions are under attack … and for Christians it will be our relation to Christ which will decide the day.  One of our two major political parties and our once reliable press advances perspectives and policies that are hostile to what the West is and the place of God in our lives and public our affairs.

Speak not and act not and you will have assumed the posture of Judas.

Dear God, help us to see the glory of the empty tomb and to act upon that glory each and every day.

Shalom.

Good Friday

… aware that everything was now finished, Jesus said, “I thirst.”

John 19:28

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Take a moment today to stop and let your mind feed your heart, as on this Holy Day it most surely will.  When the heart is in play the soul is touched … on this Holy Day even more so than on most others.

Make a few minutes for this silent retreat – from the head, to the heart, to the soul.

In silence now, I come to this question: What did Jesus do?  And to this recitation – He entered mortal life as the incarnation of Our Father and all that Our Father is and enkindled in us.  He healed those who suffered.  He befriended the friendless.  He called others to the Father.  He taught others including the religious scholars he encountered.  He made the sinful clean.  He suffered and was rejected.  He hung on the Cross and was taunted and ridiculed.  He redeemed us by His death … and was resurrected!

I ask this question and provide the above answer in the hopes that you might look around you and particularly look at those who appear prominently in our mass culture – those whose images, voices, opinions and criticisms we see and hear all to frequently.  Indeed I ask in this – what have they done to justify our attention?  And I mean people in politics, the intellectuals, elites, princes of the tech industry, those in media with unrestrained opinions about all things, and the endless “advocates” of self-serving (destructive) politically (in)correct views.

Who is worth your attention?  Jesus or the talking heads of present day American mass communication culture?

I’ll take Christ … and proclaim that no one who seeks our attention warrants our time or consideration who does not show he or she has lived a life representative of the selfless nature of the Son of God.

Shalom.

Reclining at table with his disciples, Jesus was deeply troubled and testified, “Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”

John 13:21

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Betrayal.  It is hard to imagine anything more disillusioning than violating a relationship.

Think about it, one has a trusted relationship and violates that trust.  You can see it in a man who fathers a child but deserts his child and the woman with whom he fathered the child.

Imagine Judas who was mentored by Jesus.  Think of what he did.  He sat at the table with Jesus and his disciples and took his morsel given at the table and walked away … from Light to Darkness – that is betrayal.  Judas choose alienation over sacred loyalty, over friendship, over duty and obligation, over faith, over honesty, over trust, evil over good, his own desires over God.

And then there is Peter.  Pledging his loyalty to Jesus, he denied knowing Our Lord three times before the cock would crow.  Yes, cowardice got the best of Peter.  Yes, for Peter fear dominated faith.  Yes, Peter, too, choose alienation.  Yes, for Peter trust was abandoned, friendship was dishonored – God denied.

Look about you today.  Are we a culture of trust?  Or is betrayal more common?

Are we a culture of heroes or betrayers?  One in which citizen is alienated from citizen?  A culture of unity or division?  Is division commonplace?  Is it the way of a political party?  Do women create division from men?  Do father’s desert their children?  Men and women divorce one another with ease?

Alienation.  Betrayal.  Distrust.  Hero or coward?  Loyal or not?  Divisive or unifying?  Neighbor or not?  Friend or enemy?  One alone or many together?  God-full or Godless?

Shalom.

3:03 a.m. – how nice it is to awake in the full night of silence to think about faith

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Faith is a backward-looking virtue.  It concerns who we are … “the mystical chords of memory.”

Deirdre N. McCloskey, in The Bourgeois Virtues

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In faith you are connected with those who have come before you – with a stream of being that reaches to the very distant past, the sacrifice of others, their fidelity.  Their story is our story.

In faith we belong to others – to Saint Peter and Saint John – to Abraham and Martha and Mary and Lazarus … to Aquinas, St. Augustine, to Simon of Cyrene, the men on the road to Emmaus – to centuries of faithful Jews and Christians.

In faith we have identity … a place in a long story that has no end.

In a world too often focused on the immediate, the immaterial, on desire, immersed in anxiety, loneliness, doubt and worry – we have in faith: certainty, confidence, cause, connection, and a call to life.

In faith we have as Aristotle says “another self,” – in faith is solidarity and union with one another now, in the past and in what is to come.  In faith we know love – a love that runs to what has come before, what is now, and what will be in all the tomorrows yet to come.

In faith, particular differences do not matter for the faith others possess is the faith we possess.  Ethnicity, race, age, social status, wealth and such do not matter to those who share a faith.

The broad identity of faith is the union of belief.  We are, in faith, what we believe.  Therein is our solace, our identity, our purpose, our meaning, our stability and our happiness.

Shalom.

Christians are meant to be the continuing revelation of God’s Son through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.

Thomas Keating, in The Heart of the World

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While our challenges may be many and run deep within us, our country and our culture, our task is quite clear: to be the continuing revelation of Christ in this world.

What makes this task initially challenging is that we are (independent of God) merely humans and as such we get angry, become busy, self-absorbed, weary and preoccupied.

Look about, many are angry (especially those in the secular Left – the socialists, Communists and radicals).  Confrontation can be quite hostile, even physical.

What is one to do?  Remain calm.  Be soft-spoken.  Avoid anger.  Simply respond quietly.  Perhaps take up your calling to speak to others of the truth of the Gospels.  Our task is to share Christ with others, to quell the hostility – defuse the anger.

In our most trying times – it is the peace of Christ which resides in us and gives us voice, courage and wisdom.  Yes, the peace of Christ in troubled times.

Shalom.

Postscript – Those who dislike Trump make their position known in rather intense and obvious ways,  We see this with Democrat Members of Congress and the news and celebrity class.  But few people ask: How did we elect Trump?

Well the news of the very wealthy in business, law and entertainment paying huge amounts of money to get their “little darlings” into once “elite” colleges tells you exactly why we have Donald Trump as President.  The elites live separately from the vast majority of all other Americans.  They live (as the Clintons so clearly do) above and apart from the vast sea of working Americans who pay their taxes without loopholes and privileges.

The arrogance of elites elected Trump, and their elected state, local and national representatives go one better – they ignore the will of the common voter on borders, the national deficit, abortions, illegal immigration, the Second Amendment, education, religion and all manner of Leftist (i.e., socialist and Communist) public policy.

This is a divide that creates very real problems.

 

In our time we should emphasize what unites rather than what divides.

Pope John XXIII

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These are the words of Pope John XXIII on his death-bed.  I cite them today because they fit so well the circumstances we face now.

There is great division in this land.  It seems as if people desire that we be divided, fragmented, at odds with one another … divided and separated from God and faith, self and one another.  Today hostility is heightened and friendship diminished.

This brings me to my long-term concern with how one lives one’s faith in a secular culture – now that one is apt to be estranged from spiritual existence in a culture that manifests so much discontent, anger and self-destruction.

My own course has been an attempt to understand both God and culture.  To look at our history as a nation and Western Civilization, to see the challenges we face, review our failures and our successes, look closely at our psychological health and development and our nature as spiritual beings.

It follows that my reading encompasses history, philosophy, psychology, theology, mythology, literature and the like.  But my inquiry has also experienced and thought about monastics and their ability to live faith and grow spiritually and as healthy humans notwithstanding the shape of the world over many centuries.

What I have come to understand is this: (1) if you wish to live your faith and do so deeply, you need to know how a culture can deter you from faith and your spiritual development, and (2) in seeking to live your faith in a secularized culture, you would be wise to learn from the monastic experience for it has over many years allowed men and women to grow spiritually and in contentment through their separation from the culture at-large, their silence, solitude, study and simple life style.

I might add that if you wish to assist others in finding faith in secular culture it becomes necessary to identify those things in culture which make a healthy spiritual existence quite difficult and those things which incline to foreclose one’s spiritual development and ultimate peace and contentment that daily living of one’s faith allows.

In short, what I am saying is this – to live faith in secular culture – you do well to take an informed assessment of the culture, become familiar with the nature of monastic existence and make use of its framework so you might exist within a secular culture while living fully in your faith.  Yes, in this you will be living at an arm’s length or more from the present culture as it is endlessly extended to you in a mass communication and the highly visualized and extensively noisy storm of images and words.

In practical terms it is wise to adopt a monastic disposition in an intrusive secularized culture. 

Shalom.

Postscript – In the 1950’s we held the Communists in check when they invaded Korea, would we do less in facing them in our own country?

Tradition consists not only of handling down the dogmatic formulas and liturgical customs from one generation to the next.  It means receiving this traditional teaching into ourselves in such a way that it becomes part of us.  It must pass through our minds and hearts, become our own, and emerge in our lives as a true revelation of Christ here and now.  It is only then that our baptism and the other sacraments achieve their purpose of extending Christ’s presence throughout time and space.  Christians are meant to be the continuing revelation of God’s Son through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.  (Emphasis added.)

Thomas Keating, in The Heart of the World

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Our faith is meant to be experienced.  To be ingested.  Consumed.  And employed as the central understanding that governs us, in which all that is encountered is (as a consequence) received and understood.

Yes, we are to live to extend Christ in the present.  Is there any doubt that this culture, this nation top to bottom needs Christ today.  That our leadership needs Christ, our public discourse needs Christ today?  No.  None.  Nor is there any doubt that each of us is intended to be as Christ would have us be.

Our very being is centered on the reality of God, of Christ.  Recall our God says, “I am who am.”  God as being in us and in all others and things.

Live your Christian faith – openly, vocally, daily, and fortify all those among you who do.

Shalom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shalom.

“How is it possible that suffering that is neither my own nor of my concern should immediately affect me as though it were my own, and with such force that it moves me to action?”

Arthur Schopenhauer, in On the Foundations of Morality

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This is precisely the kind of question that is not asked by individuals in America today.  It is precisely the sort of question in which we are of a very desperate need.

Its absence is the product of our failed education system – especially university education and makes its absence in a secular culture that denies God in favor of “trivial pursuits.”

Yes, what we concentrate on does not seek the feel and understanding of the mystery that this implicit in this question and others of its ilk.

I give you one such distraction that is our preoccupation.  It is “equality.”

Who images any one person is in every measure the equal of another in very detail?  No one who is thinking.  Yet, we chase in all sorts of “social justice” pursuits “equality.”  Likewise such a notion allows us to divide in hostility one from another.  Such estrangement does great damage – separating us woman from man, and by race, religion and income.

Yet over all these separations and distractions – one stops to help another who suffers.  One risks one’s life for another. We do this because we are who God made us to be in the doing of such things.

In contrast, the political climate separates us and with God in exile we grow further apart and weaker as people and as a nation.

My constant frustration is this: I see hardly anyone in public life who lives as if they ever ponder as Schopenhauer’s inquiry so clearly does.

We ought to be ashamed and less a pack of complainers and more individuals with interest in the defining questions of life that make us far better people and a stronger and more faithful nation.

Shalom.

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