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Jesus said … “Did I not say that if you believe, you will see the glory of God.”

Jn 11:39

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Here Jesus speaks to Martha, the sister of Lazarus, after Lazarus has died and been laid to rest in his tomb.

You see those who assembled around Martha and her sister Mary questioned why Jesus (who had opened the eyes of the blind man) did not keep their friend Lazarus from death.

We live in a period where “unbelief” is widespread and where, absent believe, individuals and groups attempt to secure their ends sans faith and God.

In a milder form this was the sentiment of those who doubted Jesus was the Messiah … and began to question His identity at Lazarus’ death.  These people favored their desired outcome, and doubted Jesus.  We do precisely this today.  We are of little faith.  We “go it alone” and seek our fractured ends.  Godless we create a mess, elevate ourselves to heights of foolishness and descend to the depths of chaos, uncertainty, hostility, destruction, dishonesty and folly.  Without belief – we destroy the gifts we have been given.  Shame on us.

We had best learn the lesson of Lazarus’ death.  Living in doubt of God – we have done great damage.  Shame on us.

Stay strong in faith.  Turn from those who, not believing, destroy.

Shalom.

Yesterday’s Congressional Hearing – Witness Peter Strzok of the FBI and the howling Members of the Congress in the minority party showed what godlessness looks like – what life without belief sounds like.  Poor Mr. Strzok – smug, self-righteous.  Members of the minority – chaotic, even childish.  Net: dignity absent – humility, maturity and belief in short supply. 

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… we seek nothing but the particular place willed for us by God …

Then we discover what the spiritual life really is … It is the silence of our whole being in compunction and adoration before God, in the habitual realization that He is everything and we are nothing, that He is the Center to which all things tend, and to Whom all our actions are directed.  That our life and strength proceed from Him, that both in life and death we depend entirely on Him, that the whole course of our life is foreknown by Him and falls into the plan of His wise and merciful Providence; that it is absurd to live without Him, for ourselves, by ourselves … and in the end the only thing that matters is His glory.

Thomas Merton, in Thoughts in Solitude

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In the Mass readings today we hear God lamenting that His children have moved away from Him and we hear Jesus advise us to move away from those who do not receive or listen to his words.

Our dilemma is that we live in an age where many of the most public and most vocal have moved away from God and do not listen to the words of His Son.  Likewise the culture in its digital discourse and mass communication is crowded with those who operate largely by themselves – without reference to God.  Indeed, that is the bulk of present day discourse and we are obviously affected negatively by this.

What is one to do in such circumstances?

Yes, we are assured in the Old Testament reading of today (from Hosanna) that God will act mercifully as to those who rebel.  And, we know that Jesus in today’s Gospel (from Matthew) would have us separate from those who do not receive his words or listen to him.  So we have a plan: be merciful, yet separate from those who reject the Savior’s words.

But how is this to be done?

Merton offers a way: seeking time in silence and the company of God in that silence.  For in that silence the primacy of God is known and experienced and we are in the form that we are designed to know and in which we will find peace when all about are in discord and distress.

Yes, our confidence is in God and our task is to stand apart form those who reject God outright, and in their rejection of the Son, reject the Father.  Our remedy for this is silence – a singular silence where God is heard – much as the Son shows us in his regular retreats to the quiet of the desert.

In silence we can find stability, meaning and fulfillment.

Shalom.      

 

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.

All sins are attempts to fill voids.

Simone Weil

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Life isn’t hard if you just listen to people who are smart and leave us some valuable guideposts.  Of course as people – we tend to charge ahead hitting objects head-first without a helmet.

And, then – there are things that find us – hardships, inconveniences, bad deeds and thoughtless things done by others others.  These produce the occasion to sin – to react harshly and “get even.”  But the greatest frontier as to sin – is us, each of us.

We are sinners.  Every one of us.  (That’s why God and mercy are so necessary to our existence, our over-arching story.)

Think about this: when you sin, ask yourself what void has this sinful act uncovered in me? 

Many of the sins we see are “deficits” we experience related to the want of intimacy, or power, or status, or identity, or a place in the group or the world.  Once you discover this, sin can be defused – and then, all the more, when you realize God is vital to your full grow and development – your contentment, peace and relationship with others comes into full form.

The more sin is defuse – the more others become your brothers and sisters.  That joy awaits you.  God speed.

Shalom.

 

July 6th, 2018 – Hope it is a good one for you!

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If you want something too much it’s likely to be a disappointment.  The healthy way is to learn to like the everyday things, like soft beds and buttermilk – and feisty gentlemen.

Larry McMurtry, in Lonesome Dove

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Re-reading a favorite book or watching a movie you have already seen can restore a perspective you once possessed and need to acquire again.  Yes, the pace of present day secular culture occupies us so thoroughly that we can easily lose our orientation, perspective, way of being when we are at our most relaxed best.

The above words are those of Gus McCrae, a crusty old witty and practical ex-Texas Ranger with a philosopher’s disposition and a desert dry sense of humor.

Old Gus proceeded through life with joy.  He never missed the fun, nor fooled himself as to the world he lived in, the nature of people in it, or himself.  He was hassle-free.  I do not mean problem-free – for the world is the world even for honest and balanced characters in Western novels.

Seeing Gus’s humor and wisdom, sense of justice and courage, fidelity to friends and principles reminds me of how not like Gus so many people are now.  The contrast is striking.  Gus stood tall – saw what was before him and never shunned the call to honor.

Unlike many with public voice today, Gus was not a complainer – not a whiner, and in contrast to the multitude of Left and liberal voices we hear – he was not sour, frantic, perpetually irritated, obnoxious, and demanding.

Gus had fun with life – the Left and the liberals do not.  The Left today is disgruntled or angry about anything and everything that is not what they want, do, think, believe, expect, or demand.

Mind you, Gus’s life on the Western frontier in the late 19th century was hard and unpredictable.  But Old Gus took all the hurdles, bumps, twists and turns with same panache that Sinatra sang – smoothly and self-assuredly while resigned to the magistry and mystery of it all.

How we’d help ourselves to be like Gus: funny, witty, courageous, sober, loyal, grateful, clever, loving, generous, and wise.

Right now, those most vocal among us are anxious or offended, or hostile, or loud and unhappy – unpleasant and constantly frantic.  No Gus for them.  Unlike Gus – they take nothing in stride.

Life in the West in the late 19th century, or life today in cyber-secularism?  Where’s my horse and gun?

Shalom.

Independence Day, July 4, 2018

We live in a unique Nation whose Constitution unites freedom of religion with freedom of speech.  Faith and Liberty united in one Nation.  Unique.  We had best preserve this and refute those who would destroy what we have.  God Bless America.

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Only those men are never separated from the Lord who never question His right to separate Himself from them.  They never lose Him because they always realize they never deserve to find Him, and in spite of their unworthiness they have already found Him.

Thomas Merton, in No Man is an Island

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God cannot be domesticated.  God is Pure Spirit.  And, the Spirit goes where the Spirit wishes.  In this your spirit must be as clean and free as His in order to follow Him.

Our Constitution underscores this reality.  Yes, our Constitution is not just a legal or political document – it is a Spiritual document.  

In the coming days President Trump is going to nominate a person to fill the vacant seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.

It is quite possible the President may nominate Federal Appellate Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill the vacant seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.  Judge Barrett is a Catholic, a married mother of seven children, and former Professor at the University of Notre Dame Law School.

If she is advanced as the nominee, we will face a significant test.  The test?  Will Judge Barrett’s religion be targeted as “objectionable.”  If we hear this, we will see that those who voice this objection are undermining the very central message of the U.S. Constitution: that we are a Nation of religious freedom that is to be protected – indeed, to be honored and revered.  Our Founders knew faith led a just and free people.

Keep in mind that we are not human being seeking spiritual experience, but spiritual beings who seek human experience.  This is precisely what our Founding Fathers knew and intended to reinforce in drafting the Constitution.  In the next few weeks we shall see if we are still governed by this understanding – its wisdom.

Happy Independence Day!

Shalom.

 

His presence is affirmed and adored by the absence of everything else.  He is closer to us than we are to ourselves, although we do not see Him.

Thomas Merton, in No Man is an Island

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There are times for each of us that we feel absolutely alone.  Sometimes this feeling lasts for a long period of time.  We may have lost someone we loved, or have grown old and know that our grown children now are absorbed by their family’s needs and their work.

Maybe we have endured illness alone, or are retired and feel adrift.  Perhaps we have lost a friendship or been excluded by others.  In these times we feel lost and abandoned – very alone and lonely.

Yet, in these times that we are alone, we are alone with God.  In this state we may have been cleansed of things that we sought as if they were the Divine, the source of our meaning and purpose.  Things, no matter how good they are, are NOT God.

Yes, in those lonely moments we are with God and God is with us.  These stark moments are precisely the time that you can come to realize that all the things you loved and became accustomed to – kept you from an intimate, eternal relationship with God, your Father and Creator.  These lonely times are really a time of turning, of discovery – a time to draw closer to God, to come to know God as the center of your life, the source of your being.

In what seems like loss is, properly considered, gain of the one thing – that which endures, stabilizes, gives meaning and purpose, restores contentment and offers joy.  So often the things we have depended upon come to show us that they are not God, not what is most satisfying and most important to our happiness and existence.

Fear not, God is near – God is always near.

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.

Every baptized Christian is obliged by baptismal promises to renounce sin and to give himself completely, without compromise, to Christ, in order that he may fulfill his vocation, save his soul, enter the mystery of God, and there find himself perfectlyin the light of Christ.”  (Emphasis added.)

Thomas Merton, in Life and Holiness

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When you look and observe all sorts of disordered behavior, hostility, division and antagonism – you might ask: How can this be, we were once a united nation and when we disagreed we did so in a civil and respectable manner – a way that did not make us enemies?

Now if you are a Christian, the above words of Thomas Merton might help you understand why we are where we are, and how we might restore what we once knew and enjoyed.

The “how?”  We have forget the gifts of our baptism.  We forget the extraordinary significance of being one with Christ, being a Christian.  Having forgotten our legacy and its inheritance, we reverted to self and selfishness – to godlessness – a life without Christ at the center of our being.

For a Christian, our separation from Christ is a guarantee for calamity, disintegration, division, antagonism, hostility, unhappiness, sin and destruction of all that is good.  Abiding by our Baptismal gifts – we prosper, find strength and happiness – build friendship, family and community – and know joy and humility and courage.

Yes, in baptism we are “called out of darkness.”  In its neglect we court darkness – and see it surround us today.  Ah, but you can change that!!!

Shalom.

 

 

 

… that all of them may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I am in You.  May they also be in us …  (Emphasis added.)

Jn 17:21

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In the recent four or five years in traveling across the country and in my daily public activities like shopping, I have had the privilege of meeting and talking to a good number of African-Americans – mostly men.  The conversations have always been cordial – actually wonderful, warm, joyful and a real blessing.

In each of the conversations I am referring to, I have offered and observation which has been universally and warming accepted.  My observation?  It is this: I say to the man with whom I have shared kind words and some laughter – this simple thing: “You know, for the life of me, I cannot understand why it is that others are intent on turning us against one another.  If I or you were drowning and someone threw us a rope that saved our life, would we ever care what their race, or religion, or ethic heritage was?”  Not one of my conversation partners ever responded other than this way: “You are so right, I am sick of the division.”

” … that all of them may be one, as You, Father, are in me, and I am in You …”

Look, we have one critical responsibility and that is to be one as the Father and Son are one.

That said, ask yourself as you listen to those whose words are presented in public discourse – Does this man or woman divide us?  Or do their word bring us together?

I pray that we all start to apply these two questions to all who speak to us.

We will die by division – just as we will live and prosper only as one.

If you doubt this, think of this one thing.  In the Genesis story God provides man a companion – a woman because it is not good that man be alone.  Friends, could this be any plainer?  Men and women are clearly different and yet we are made whole by one another.  Does God not make this plain as day?  You know the answer.  Let’s live this reality, this truth.  One.  One.  One.

Dear God, help us see that we are one, meant to be one – help us turn from those who would divide us, create hostility for their own dubious benefit.  Amen.

Shalom.

If this message makes any sense to you, please share it with others.  We really are in this life together.  We own the problems we have and we have a way out of the troubles we had created.  Let’s get busy being one.

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