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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.

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The function of faith is not to reduce mystery to rational clarity, but to integrate the known and unknown together into a living whole.

Thomas Merton, in New Seeds of Contemplation

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You recall that faith is a virtue.  Why is that?  Well it is not merely a matter of knowing but a matter the Spirit, of “spiritual courage” as C.S. Lewis says.

In faith we exceed the fade of a particular time or Age.  In faith we live beyond the limits of science and its (sometimes) temporary “certainty” – that is: its “truth” subject to change, its own evolution, its trek to greater understanding as science and discovery grow over time.

Faith is wedded to “belief” and belief is a derived (in Germanic origin) from a word connoting “beloved” – love.

In faith then is belief and love – far more than reason but not limited by mere rationality.

Faith, like your life itself, is about so much more.  Does one not have confidence in one’s spouse, one’s child, one’s brother, one’s sister, one’s father, one’s mother, one’s best friend?  Does not that faith capture something larger than reason?

If one has faith in one’s best friend or spouse or sibling could not one have faith in God … belief in the One who is Love itself?

Imagine the poverty and despair of those who cannot believe in love … or a whole culture where belief is missing.

Think of this, in a culture of unbelief is not the experience of human experience reduced?  Would not addiction, homicide, suicide, hostility, division, anxiety, abortion, infanticide, adultery, divorce, hatred, alcoholism, selfishness, self-destruction, cowardice, chaos, amorality, nihilism, conflict, despair, corruption, greed, indifference, ignorance, unhappiness, lawlessness, loneliness, lust, envy, lying, dishonesty, suffering, vanity, violence and evil grow?

Shalom.

Back after a day of travel …

So long as men and women believed themselves to be responsible beings, called to choose, and accountable to God for their choices, life might be tragic, but it is not trivial.

Sydney Cave, in The Christian Way

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Ah, yes … and when Christianity is attacked, shunned and meant to be made unimportant how will we avoid the creation of tragic and chaotic circumstances and horrendous deeds – like infanticide, opiate use and producing early death, or random murders, preying on the innocent, the stripping of all that is in human sexuality and destroying the family?  And who among you understands the relationship between freedom and responsibility?

Who in the public eye connects faith and responsibility.  Surely not the Socialist whose view of God is much like that of a Communist – namely, that God neither matters nor exists (translation – God is an unwelcome competitor to those who desire all power reside in them so they might be gods and goddesses.)

When a culture departs from individual responsibility in favor of the scapegoating of a select group (“old White men,” capitalists, people of faith … etc.) it ushers in an age of terror and precipitous decline … as we see now in Venezuela … and the Democrat Left’s embrace of infanticide and the abolition of Constitutional freedoms long ago clearly defined.

Shalom.

 

Underlying most arguments against the free markets is a lack of belief in freedom itself.

Milton Friedman

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It really is amazing to see a once wealthy, stable, free market Venezuela today in ruins under socialism and to see Democrats in this country looking to create a socialist utopia here in the United States.

Think about it.  In socialist Venezuela those who govern are rich as can be … and everyone else in the country cannot find food to eat.  Make no mistake socialism makes the small class who govern very, very privileged and very, very wealthy … socialism enhances the power of those who govern while impoverishing everyone else and stripping them of freedom. 

One would think that this avoidable tragedy just might inform the Democrat Left and their brethren in mass media … but then again the “pie-in-the-sky” legions of day-dreamers never learned from Communist Cuba, Communist Russia, the national socialism of Hitler’s Germany .. and besides their advocacy of socialism is intended to place them in power so that might live very well while others grovel and claw for food.

History shows us that socialism manufactures economic destruction, corruption, poverty, starvation, totalitarian government and loss of freedom.

It is hard NOT to recognize that socialism is a failure and that those who pursue it (as Friedman says) are opposed to freedom. Venezuela provides no greater illustration of the destruction that socialism brings … and no greater proof that those pushing this in the United States should be rejected out-of-hand.

Finally, those who reject freedom never seem to be particularly faithful.  That too ought to be a clue – a warning, a signal that nothing good can come of their daydreams and desires.

Shalom

The man said, “The woman you put here with me – she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

Gen 3:12

“I am the Lord’s servant. Let everything you’re said happen to me.”

Luke 1:38

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First we hear Adam in Eden after eating the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Next we hear the young Mary responding to the Angel Gabriel who has announced to her that she will bear God’s Holy Child.

Adam did not obey God and tried to avoid responsibility for his disobedience.  Mary, on the contrary, accepted God’s gift to her and to us – she obeyed without reservation.

Obeying God or not obeying God. This is always the singular determinative question in a life – in the life of a Nation also … Yes, in our life and the life of our Nation today.

Is this not the issue we face, the issue that we see before us now?

What do I mean?

There is substantial evidence to suggest that the Clinton Foundation functioned illegally.  Such evidence, complied by interested private citizens with extensive experience in criminal law, tax compliance and finance, has been submitted to the Justice Department.  That done, we shall see if the Justice Department and the federal government is populated by those like Adam or by those like Mary.

Mind you, when material suggests criminal activity may have been pursued by significant high-level government officials (present and/or former) with considerable influence – an investigation must commence lest the public conclude that some are above the law and, given that, our Nation is now not the honorable and law-abiding place it once was.  A conclusion that would then place the common people with the task of restoring what is good to what once was.

Think about it: do we want to destroy a Nation to favor those who, privileged by name and title, are so thoroughly corrupted?

Adam did nothing to endear himself to us by his disobedience and denial of responsibility – while Mary accepted easily the task she was called on to do.

One hopes we are, in this Nation, Mary and not Adam.

Shalom.

 

… signs … Jesus … performed … have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.

Jn 20: 30,31

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Believing or not believing.  Belief in God or belief in nothing.  Theism or nihilism.  We face this proposition more directly today than we have probably in our history.

I have a very dear childhood friend.  He was my closest friend growing up.  We were like brothers – did so many things together.  Shared the same classes and teachers throughout school.  I was like a family member in his home.  His mother treated me like one of her children.  She and my mother were best of friends.

My friend is now in a nursing home.  He is frail.  Spends a good deal of time in bed.  As a child he was bright, friendly, a reader – social, trusted, quite capable.  In his late adolescence he seemed to be at odds with institutions and authority – but more to the point he began to lose interest in the world around him.  He seemed to make a wilful decision to reject this or that – his skepticism began to grow.  His actions seemed to say: life is worthless – this view and his skepticism grew as he aged.

He drank consistently throughout his life beginning when he was a teenager.  His initial adult working life seemed consistent with his abilities.  He had a modest political life and was elected to his local School Board.  His two children were successful.  He seemed at odds with his wife and she with him most of their married life.  She too was a negative person.

His negativity continued to grow – his work history declined as his cynicism strengthened.  He suffered from seizures.  Eventually his downward work trajectory ended when he worked himself out of a janitor’s job, being fired from a government position despite his union membership.  A very hard act to accomplish.  He burned bridges at work and with family members.  He scoffed at religion and those who tried to help him.

If I have to point to one thing that explains my friend’s decline it is this: he became a cynic – lived as a nihilist.  He lived as if to say very loudly – life has no meaning.  Nothing  met his approval – all was more or less rejected.  He lived as if to deny his own existence and existence itself.  

I see his attitude in our culture and politics today.  Those who reject national borders sound like him.  The lapses with the Vatican as to sex abuse, denying law, morality and the Canons of the Church reflect his disposition. The upheaval in sexual mores, in families, in lawless urban enclaves seem to say: “belief in good” no longer holds.   The corruption at the federal bureaucratic level says much the same thing – truth and honesty are not honored in practice.  Drug addictions, suicides, random violence and corporate men preying on women employees – but more indications of decline and decay, amoral behavior – signs of depravity and reasons for serious concern.

All this to say but one simple thing: I do not hear much said about nihilism and the denial of values, morals, conduct – rather, too often, I see others advocating decline and decay – angry people attacking structures and codes of conduct that hold us together and provide a basis for community, peace and prosperity … life itself.

Theism or Nihilism.  Believe in something or believe in nothing.  God or nothing at all.

Shalom.

Posting late on a lazy summer day.  For the first time since I retired some years ago, I have come to enjoy life as if I am “on vacation” – no need to charge out of bed like a man responding to an emergency.  I even slept late.  This must be what living feels like.

It is my earnest belief that everything we see before us today is more or less polluted, diluted and devalued.

Karl Barth, in Community, Church and State

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Theologian Karl Barth makes his point at the height of America’s success – having been victorious in World War II.  The year was 1946.

One wonders what he might say today when looking at Washington, the Justice Department, the F.B.I., the press and media, the apparent double-standard that once was the justice system where the law was equally applied to all, etc.

It is hard not to conclude we have been corrupted and where impartiality is required favoritism is applied.  Yes, this is alarming.  Nations disintegrate when such things occur.  Divisions of this sort are quite deadly.

In thinking about Barth’s words today, I am reminded of Jesus washing the feet of the Disciples and saying to them “Unless I was you, you will have no part with me.”  (Jn 13:8)

His point is simple and it holds today – like Him, we are to serve others rather than ourselves and our pride.

I am always on-guard when I hear here in Washington that X is an impeccable person, that he is the most honest and trust-worthy man to be found anywhere.  Gang, this is Washington and the culture does not often produce such a species of man – this is a “go along, get along” town – where people advance their own interests while serving the needs of those who can most likely help them climb up the ladder.  Not a lot of feet-washers here.

Strange as he is, President Trump is perhaps the only candidate for the Presidency in my life time that has identified what a great number of citizens around the land have figured out: Washington isn’t heaven … its not even Iowa.

What Barth saw, many now see as well.  Need I say we desperately need more of Christ and far less of self … Would that not be a proper perscription for what ails us?

Very much time to pray for this Nation.

Shalom.

Some Pharisees came up to Jesus, testing Him, and began to question Him whether it was lawful for a man to divorce his wife.  He … said, “What did Moses command you?”  They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.”  Jesus said … “Because of the hardness of your heart he wrote you this commandment.  But from the beginning of creation, God made male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and the two shall no longer be two, but one flesh.”

Mk 10: 2-8

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Divorces have become common.  In the terms of the above words from Jesus – they are evidence of “hardness of heart.”

How casually we divorce!  If one wanted to see a concrete sign of our faithlessness one need only think of the divorces we have seen, the motivations of the moving party and the injuries they so easily inflict on children and the spouse who is being divorced.

Hardness of heart.  What a dreadful identification for a person to hold.

I know a man whose wife filed for divorce without any assertion of cause represented by the man’s behavior.  Her reason for divorce: their child was off to college and she felt “their work was done.”  Of course, it might be noted that her two closest girlfriends maintained adulterous relationships with wealthy men who they eventually married.  Behind the scene, of course, was this – the woman wanted to find a man with money.  She, in due time, married a wealthy man – no thought about the effects on her child or her former spouse.  I suppose that qualifies for a hardened heart.

Let’s be brutally honest – as a culture we are closer to hardness of heart than to God.  And, yet we wring our hands and wonder: what is wrong with this country?

Yes, we are what is wrong – we blow-up families, crave material things, pledge words that are easily broken.  Yep, we excuse all sorts of dreadful behavior.  Shame on us!

Shalom.

 

 

 

Mary … took a pound of very costly perfume … and anointed the feet of Jesus … But Judas Iscariot … said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor people? … he said this, not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money-box, he used to pilfer what was put into it.

Jn 12: 3, 4, 5, 6

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It is interesting to me that Scripture has these small creases in it that convey ageless wisdom or warning.

Here we see Judas raise a concern about something of value and money.  (We tell much about people by the concerns they have.)

Judas is focused on money and in his remarks he shows us this.  In the presence of Jesus, he is thinking about money – not the person of Christ or the anointment of a Messiah.

In modern days, we often hear politicians and others appeal to the needs of the poor, women, children, a minority group, etc.  Yet, from time to time we see the misuse of funds dedicated to help others.  Sometimes we learn that heads of charitable organizations make significant salaries – live rather well beyond the common person.

As in the day of Christ, and so today – people angle to feather their own nest – even in the course of “helping” others.

There is much to learn from Scripture – it records the nature of people and the ageless lure of material life to many – even some who profess selfless dedication.

We have, it seems, feet of clay.  How we need God to this day!

It is wise to pray to God that we might exceed our modest limits and temptation.

Shalom.

“Now then, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, then you shall be my own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is mine, and  you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”  (Emphasis added.)

Ex 19: 5, 6

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Thus God spoke to Moses.  His words return to us.  Putting them to test today cannot but give you pause.

Have we obeyed God?  Have we kept His covenant?  Do we look like a nation of priests and a holy nation?  It would be hard to say “yes” to these questions.

Today we welcome a harlot as a center of attention in a story involving her accepting a large financial payment for not talking about a sexual encounter a dozen years ago with a prominent man.  Abortions are more welcome than unborn children.  Judges reign who have been adulterers and married three times.  A former President accepted a cash “gift” for pardoning a fugitive billionaire.  An F.B.I. director and his colleagues lie and unlawfully leak information in pursuit of destroying a political figure they do not like.  A candidate for high office has her multiple misdeeds ignored.  A select prosecutor hires a staff with adulterers and others who have convicted people while withholding information that would have proved their innocence.  The prosecutor himself put four men in jail for a long time who were subsequently freed because of their innocence.

These are not the acts of holy men and women, nor are they in conformity with God’s covenant.  Shame.

But how long will you let those in authority who act in your name cast you aside, impose on you their sinful deeds?  Do you not aspire to something better?

Shalom.

Oh Goody.  A national coffee shop chain is requiring all its employees to spend a day in race sensitivity training and former Attorney General Eric Holder (a lawyer with no special training in psychology, cultural criticism, history, religion, theology, sociology, etc.) will be the instructor.

Now I’m no expert on racism, but I’d bet it is reasonable to define a racist as one who thinks constantly about race and racial division.  That said, the public Mr. Holder seems fixated on race and racial division.  Is this the best one can do?  How about working on seeing all people as (surprise) just people?  God’s children?

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