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“When you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of the Light.  These things Jesus spoke, and He went away and hid Himself from them.”

Jn 12:36

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There are endless lessons to be learned in Scripture.  The above is an example.

As “literalists,” we understand the easy lesson here: believe in Christ and become the sons of the Father.

But there is another extremely important lesson here as well and it is this: give yourself private time, time alone – in quiet – in solitude for that is precisely what Jesus does … he retreated from people, from the crowd, to be alone in quiet for prayer, rest and contemplation.

As to this point, let’s be deadly serious: we live in a troubled land with many disordered people and disordered ideas and a great deal of stress, conflict and destruction.  People are very limited in their own development and have anchored themselves is selfishness, foolishness, fantasy and what is false, fraudulent and wrong.  Evil has been passed along as good.

We are, in many real ways, a disintegrating society.  There are those ideas and people among us who push us more and more to our destruction.  Yes, things are that disjointed and out-of-control.  Even institutions like the Church show these signs.  Fortunately as Christians, we have Christ and His teachings and He and His teachings are all the more indispensable to us in this time of chaos and conflict.

For you I say only this: pay attention to Christ and keep some time for being alone in quiet, rest, prayer and contemplation.  Do not immerse yourself totally in culture or labor.  Read Scripture and see so plainly what is before you: many are lost and forces present attempt to push us to extinction.  That is what godlessness brings – evil deeds and the assault on what is Good, life-giving and eternal.

Stay strong and tough.  Be wise.  The Light is your guide.  Stay in the Light.

Shalom.

If today’s message is helpful, please pass it along to others and welcome them to share it with those they know.  We are in this together.  All in one boat.

As always, comments are welcome and helpful.  Peace be with you.

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God, Who is everywhere never leaves us.

Thomas Merton, in No Man is an Island

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It seems to us from time to time that God is not present to us.  But this would appear to negate what Merton says above.

What might one say?  Merton says this: sometimes God seems present to us and sometimes He seems absent from us.  This is normal.  Merton tells us this: God may be more present to us when he appears absent than when He appears present.

Strange, you might think.  And you might ask: How can this be?  More present when we think He is absent?

To figure this out Merton points out that there are two kinds of “absent.”  One is a condemnation – God is absent from us “because we put some other god in His place and refuse to be known by Him.”

In the second form of “absent” we are not condemned but sanctified!  In that experience of His absence He “empties the soul of every image that might become an idol and of every concern that might stand between our face and His Face.”

Condemned is what our culture has done presently – how we live at-large in a secularized culture that intentionally excludes God and foolishly elevates the human person – their physical and intellectual desires above God.  All of the homicides, violence, broken relationships, addictions, predatory behavior, conflicts, divisions, abortions, child abuse and neglect, abhorrent inter-personal behavior and actions intended to destabilize the country are acts of condemnation on our part.

The sense that God is absent to us in the whole is an accurate indication of our present day experience.  We have met the enemy and he is us.

Sanctification is something else again.  Here God acts positively and protectively to insure that we do not personally (one by one) acquire the means to divide ourselves from God.

In sanctification God loves us so that He leads us to a place where we realize that the things we have cherished are NOT God and as such can never satisfy or fulfill us in and by themselves.  You see when find that we have begun to place even the best things we do or encounter above God, God reminds us that even the good we do cannot satisfy as God can for the good we do does not love us the way the God who is Love does.

When the day grows quiet and you are alone, ask yourself if you have placed things above God – even the good things you do.  If that might be so, ask God to bring you back to Him.

As for the serious disarray we have in our culture and country, it is way past time to seek that God might bring us back to Him.

Shalom.

 

 

Prayer is lifting up our minds and hearts to God.

The St. John’s Daily Prayer Book

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What might comprise a daily prayer?

  • Expressing our love of God
  • Thanking God for our blessings
  • Seeking God’s forgiveness for our sins
  • Asking that His Grace shine on us, our loved ones and others

One may pray silently.  That is called mental prayer.  Or one can give voice to prayer.  Prayer invokes both heart and mind in each of us.

Starting a day with simple prayer is a wonderful habit and the very best way to begin a new day.

In quiet times I may well simply sit and thank God for all He has done for me, profess my love of Him, and ask for His forgiveness.

Yes, each of us must be forgiven.  We are sinners to whom God generously provides His mercy.  Indeed if you read the prayers of the Doctors of the Church like St. Thomas Aquinas you will see his initial recognition that he knows himself a sinner who receives God’s attention and mercy through no merits of his own earthly deeds.

It is so helpful to give yourself time to pray.

Shalom.

Forget the suffering you cause others.  Forget the suffering others caused you,  The waters run and run, springs sparkle and are done, you walk the earth you are forgetting.

Czeslaw Milosz, in Forget

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Age roots in the body.  We remain, at best, of sound mind with insight from the years and the experience they bring.  For the fortunate ones joy remains, so too sight, touch, taste, sensuality, humor, gumption and guts.  But our voice softens as humility and gratitude take form – the soft voice – evidence of reverence.  Nearing home at last.

How blessed we are to age with soul in tact and heart alive with love and kindness – and long past worry and uncertainty.

There is a calm sense in being an elder for we have the range of sight unknown to the young – no matter the status, title, education, office … One must run the course to know and see.  Those ones see deeper, are content with quiet, live well among the lengthening shadows for by faith they are the sons and daughters of twilight … darkness holds no fear for them.

The aging ones who have lived well have fought the necessary fights – having fallen, they have gotten up.  In this they come to a point of common suffering and its fruit: compassion.

There is quiet and peace within when the light begins to fade.  Winter prepares for sleep.

Shalom.

There are people alive today who may live to see the effective death of Christianity within our civilization.

Hostile secular nihilism has won the day in our nation’s government, and the culture has turned powerfully against traditional Christians.

American Christians are going to have to come to terms with the brute fact that we live in a culture … in which our beliefs make increasingly little sense (to others).

Rod Dreher, in The Benedict Option

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Dreher’s short, readable book will tell you better than others I have read (and I have read many) what we live today in a culture that is changing/eroding at a rapid and disconcerting clip.  Yes, a book to be read not once but several times – and referred to often.

For parents and grandparents who desire that their children and grandchildren be safe, stable and sane amid the hellish chaos of our disintegrating culture – this is a “must read.”

As the quotes above suggest, we are moving away from religious narrative and the underpinnings of America as it was created by our Founders.  This puts us adrift, at sea without a point of reference … without a necessary backdrop that affords a context in which to endure hardship, evil, death, betrayal, loss, disappointment, etc. – of a mortal life.

Frankly, it is simply impossible to live without an overriding wisdom narrative – and, yet we are abandoning our narrative in the face of pressure and hostility from the godless ones (hostile secular nihilists) up and down the social and political ladder.  Such is the way of pridefulness and ignorance.

The loss of a wisdom narrative leaves each to drift without guidance.  The loss places an impossible burden on the individual to create meaning out of their meager experience.

How foolish to think you can write your own narrative while you live it day by day.  Such behavior ignores the treasured records of human existence passed on for centuries.

The costs of this abandonment for the individual and the culture pile up: suicides, homicides, drug addiction, depression, insanity, aborted children, obesity, alcoholism, broken families, lost love, dependency, racial conflict, disorientation, lethargy, despair, confusion, the absence of hope – confidence and faith, of courage and optimism – intimacy, warmth, peace, laughter – human existence, itself.

As Dreher points out Christians are at a crossroad – Christ or no Christ.

So what is it?  Soul or self?  Death and despair without God, or life with God.

Shalom.

 

We must go to this Child, this Man, the Son of God, at whatever inconvenience, at whatever risk to ourselves, because to know and love him will change our lives.

St. John Paul II

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When I began …

When I began five and a half years ago writing daily about faith and culture, the world and our country was much different.  I thought of my task as one of providing spiritual comfort, help, guidance to those who suffered and were astray, puzzled, confused, betrayed, injured, hurt.

In the interim, I had to adjust to an additional task, that of evangelization. Introducing others to Christ, reminding them of Christ, and of the indispensable place of faith in human existence and human community.

Yet, as things began to disintegrate in our country, as battle lines were drawn and political and ideological hostility divided us and corruption and untruth emerged, my task changed again to include comments on public life, politics, psychology and the like – for it became obvious that as a country we were distinctive because faith played a vital, irreplaceable role in our founding, our history, our prosperity, our identity, our existence.

However, in these years one constant remained – our need to be anchored in our faith – to make certain that nothing displaces that, and God as our center, no matter the controversy.

 Gospel is Revelation

The Gospel is not a story, not history, nor myth.  It is Revelation.  To read the Gospel otherwise is to miss the mark, to miss its depth, its singular uniqueness.

The Gospel is God’s revealing Himself to you, to us, to mankind and to the world. The Gospel shows us what is divine, the deepest reality that exists.

In the Gospel we are invited into God, invited to know God – the Creator.  To be invited into God is to be invited into Love, for God is love.

The Gospel reveals what God wishes for us.  It is existential reality.  Like no other, it introduces us to certainty, identity, intimacy, forgiveness, the endless forever.

The Gospel is the daily encounter with God in Christ, our constant companion if only we allow it.

In Christ, God speaks, lives, acts, loves, suffers, dies and rises again.  Yes, in the Gospel is grace given, gift offered.

No matter the state of our being – indeed in times of our greatest errors and confusion – one question remains: Do we live a Gospel life?

Shalom.

When a man offers a sacrifice peace offerings to the Lord … from the herd or of the flock, it must be perfect to be accepted; there shall be no defect in it.

Lev. 22:21

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This is a passage from the Old Testament that addresses the offerings of calves and lambs to the Lord.  Yet, it makes a point that applied today.

The point?  When we offer ourselves to God we are to strive humbly to offer the best each of us are, and can be.  The point is this, to me, we are to strive to live as well as we can, knowing that we will sometimes fail and that it is in the intention to give our best to God that we conform to this passage.

So today, this short message: dedicate yourself to God by simply living as well as you can – in kindness, forgiveness, compassion, honesty, welcome, love, understanding and the like.

In short, live each day to the fullest.  Accept life as it is presented and grow in the rust and love of God. Your life is a gift.

Your life is what you try to live. Nobody can live it for you or instead of you.

Carl Jung, M.D.

Make of your life – a good offering.

Shalom.

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from iniquity.

1 Jn 1:8-9

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Sin.  Failure.  This is part of human existence.  We will all know failure and sin in this mortal life.

How many of us know that with failure or sin comes God’s love and support?  How many live as if that is not so, as if they have done something that is unforgivable, inexcusable?  Think of the burden we create in carrying that guilt.   That is an unnecessary burden.  We do not have a “one strike and you’re out” God.

Yes, sin and failure may bring us humility, cut us down to human size – but neither sin nor failure is a permanent and insurmountable burden.  God is merciful and forgives us our sins and understands our failures and our sin.

We will all fall in this life.  But to each forgiveness is available, and mercy is in long supply.

Those who do not believe seem to have to deny failure and sin.  This makes one brittle, defensive and makes being human much, much harder.  Such a disposition eliminates, or at least narrows, ones capacity for forgiveness and the understanding of others.

In the strangest, supernatural way failure and sin are designed, it seems, to teach us humility, to invite us into relationship with the One Perfect One, to grow in us compassion and forgiveness as to self and others.  From this: real friendship and intimacy, and less hurt and anxiety.

Failure and sin is, in God’s design, a gateway to our full humanity and to Him. Likewise to others – our co-workers, neighbors, strangers, siblings, parents, children, friends who will, just as us, sin and fail.

See the perfect design of the Perfect One.

Dear God, forgive our sins, our failures.  Strengthen us in all that is good in us, all that you made us to be at our best.  Help us live in the confidence that we are human and You forgive.

Shalom.

The thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy; I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

Jn 10:10

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These are the words of Jesus in the Gospel of John.  They are cornerstone words – critical to living a life, and to our well-being.

” … that you may have life and have it abundantly …”

Have you ever thought of what these words tell you?  Have you ever thought what truth they contain?  The depth of that truth?

These are not mere platitude, not a trite remark.  Rather, they speak to our wholeness as human beings.  They speak to our full and healthy human development, and to God’s economy – how God functions in our life and in human existence, and in the universe since the beginning of time.

In this autobiography Memories, Dreams, Reflections psychotherapist Carl Jung, M.D., says:

Man’s task is … to become conscious of the contents that press upward from the unconscious … his destiny … is to create more and more consciousness.  As far as we can discern, the purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.

Life abundant.  Jung describes what Jesus refers to as a union of our conscious state with our unconscious state. This is for Jung a union of opposites, a way to wholeness, reconciliation, health, understanding, peace and contentment. It is for Jung a union of what we know and what resides within to be known.

Jung goes on to say in his autobiography as to the unification of opposites (what is known and to be known) that the incarnation of God can be understood as union of God and man and a motif for the full development of the human person, for the unification of what is known and what is to be known – carried within to be known in our lifetime.

Jung’s words give depth to what Jesus is saying as to an abundant life.  The point being: that we are made be an assembled whole, to know God, to be linked as human with the Divine, to be joined – man with God, to become less a mystery to ourselves by realizing we are secure and contained in the Mystery of God.

Simply said: the union of God and man shown in the incarnation brings light from darkness.  Light literally arises from darkness.  What is obscure to man is understood and sight is gained, two become One.

What does this mean?

God assembles the whole person and gives us Christ to show us this.  God makes good from error in doing so.   Indeed, God lifts us out of error so that even error might be a way to Him, to wholeness, to the union of the human person with the Divine Creator.  Good from error: union of opposites.  Light from darkness.

I offer a typical way one might see this.

Let’s say a person finds himself or herself in an adulterous relationship.  Yes, a mistake for sure – but when the event ends that person discovers the origin in them of that conduct.

That origin may be a history of not knowing their worth, their value and their place in intimacy.  Or maybe that conduct stems from child sexual abuse, or a cold and emotionally unavailable set of parents.

Strange as it is, the error may clarify one’s past, one’s deficits and lead to self-understanding and growth.

The point is not to say: the conduct was justified, but rather that the conduct was manifest by an injury or deficit and identified an injury that required attention. Out of error, growth and good can emerge.  God uses all things to lead us to Him and to wholeness, to abundant life.

Many a person has learned of abundance through error which clarifies and corrects.

There is truth in what Jesus says.  God desires our wholeness and Jesus presents this to us in word and deed.  Jung sees this and in his own profession and its language he tells us of it.

You need not fear mistake.  Hasten to hear the words of Jesus – you are called to wholeness, to kindle light from darkness.  Abundant life awaits you.  It comes, often, out of error – for out of error: wholeness.

Shalom.

… what was great in the morning will be little at evening, and what in the morning was true, will at evening have become a lie.

Carl Jung

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The ego is full of defenses and the soul is not.  Morning is not night.

When we age and approach the end of life it is best to shed the ego for it is the soul that meets eternity.  Yet, the mortal world engages the ego and keeps a grasp on us.  It does so in many ways.

How might we shed the ego and embrace the soul?  As day becomes night and light dims.

Be conscious of what tethers us to the ego – our fears, our habits and ways of thinking, endless tasks, our concerns about the demands of mortal existence and all its structures.  These are the predicates of attachment to mortality and living in the ego.  From these flow the particulars – telephone calls not returned, anger at insults met, affronts of one sort or another that flow from daily discourse, distances from others, voices lost that once were not.  All these stir the ego and hide the soul from us in daylight.

But we are souls, eternal beings – and destined for eternity – life without end, life in the soul.  As light closes we see.

To shed the ego is to find the soul, to know what is eternal in the mortal world.

Without ego we meet the soul, who we are.  With the ego this is not so, for in ego we are bent to the world’s dimension not God’s form and being – blinded by daylight.

The art of being and our deepest, inexhaustible, actual identity is in the soul.

In aging and mortality, we meet the soul if we shed the ego, create a distance from the day-to-day, accept dusk and its gentle tones, sit quiet in the afternoon.

Aging is a blessed time.  A time of settling up and clearances – open fields where the soul reigns and the ego fades.

Aging is the soul’s time, an entry to the eternal.

Do not fret when your children forget you.  Their life is in the mortal world where ego governs among the fears and customs.  Your journey when young was quite the same.   But now you live who once did not.  The morning is not evening.

Shalom.

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