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Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your country … To the land that I will show you; and I will make of you a great nation … And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”

Gen 12: 1, 2, 3

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I sit in the morning fog in God’s green land.  Behind the mist are the pastures and the hills and mountains that I am sure to see when the veil is lifted and the sky is opened. I listen to De Profundis and Palestrina’s Gloria from Missa Papae Marcelli.

The news of the world is troubling.  In this land we wake to stories of overdoses, and of the murder of two young Muslim teenage boys on the eve of their high school graduation, both honor students on their way to college, and of conflicts and hostilities in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa.  In our legislature the Party out of power acts like spoiled children, turns to obstruction while problems pile up and division disheartens.  Small groups act like angry pagans demanding this or that.  Racism surfaces among those once its victim.  The morning fog cannot hide the shame of this.

It had been four centuries without a prophet until Jesus emerged.  Four centuries.  Our Jewish brothers and sisters wondered why God was silent.  Then we received The Word, Immanuel – “God with us.”

We have been given the opportunity to become the children of God, to become the great nation that Abraham was called to bring forth.

Children of God and children of Abraham, but how do we act today?  We act as if there was no Abraham, no Jesus and there is no God.

Today we seek to create good through human acts but in place of good is conflict, discontent, selfishness, hatred.  The flesh and the will of man cannot triumph … it is God who perfects man, not man who prefects man.  Like Abraham we must be His vehicle, His instrument.

Like you I see the conflict, the needless hurt, the arrogance of man and woman, the reliance on self as if we are God.  We have credited ourselves with wisdom and power we do not have.

The good and wise man is humble, speaks softly – sees others as his family.

Are you the good and wise man?  Am I?

Shalom.

 

 

God works in history, therefore a contemplative who has no sense of history, no sense of historic responsibility … is not fully a Christian contemplative: he is gazing at God as a static essence … But we are face to face with the Lord of history and with Christ the King … light of the world … We must confront Him the awful paradoxes of our day …

Thomas Merton

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If there is one (and there is) central failure that puts us in the conflict, and confusion, and chaos … and danger and division, that we face today it is our failure to know and serve God as the Lord of History.

All of the immorality, hostility, bitterness, rancor, hatred and rank stupidity can be assigned to that one failure.

Likewise, the destructive behaviors we witness in special pleaders of unwise causes are the product of God’s exile, and in that absence – the geometric ignorance and needless destruction it produces.

Yesterday, I watched an episode of The Ozzie and Harriet Show and one of The Rockford Files.  The former from the 1950’s and the latter from the 1960’s.  Each was a delight. Each well-written, and nicely acted. Each told an engaging story – the former in a family context, the latter in a detective format.

In the former we saw truths about husbands and wives, men and women, family, brothers, neighbors, boys and girls and human nature.  It was fun to watch. Truth told in a gentle and amusing manner.  It was nice TV … it sat a tone, was believable – represented a reality that was and could be: a relaxed and kindly family environment.

In the latter, we had a “who done it” yarn with the focus being the work of a not-so-successful, and unflappable private detective whose status-life was that of living in a trailer parked on asphalt adjoining a stretch of California beach.

Our hero detective was an anti-hero – an earnest man (yet not beyond employing a street-smart trick now and again) who was resigned to the riff-raff of life without losing his kind and understanding nature.  He was, indeed, an everyman with the wonderful grace to live life as it presented – without scorning what he saw.

Yes, in the 50’s and the early 60’s we effortlessly lived with God the Lord of History and in so doing, we were not out-of-control, frantic, required to “get-our-own-way.”  We were then, sublime, without anxiety or fits anger, public or otherwise … better yet there was no need for intolerant crusaders.  Social justice had yet to emerge to anoint any and all mediocre C-minus-minus people into obnoxious “know-it-all” crusaders.  In short, looking back you see that when God is recognized as the Lord of History … our life is easier and our relationships much more pleasant.

I’ll pass on the very unfunny bores of late night TV, and the likes of Chuckie Schumer and the talking heads of CNN, MSNBC, et al, the vacuous celebrities who have opinions about all manner of things never thoroughly considered, and on the minor leaguers of The Times, The Post etc.

Today we are so dumb and uninformed we don’t realize life (properly considered and experienced) is so much easier … death-defying anxiety and hostility is not mandatory.

Try thinking of God as essential – as the Lord of History … ignore those who speak as if God is either dead or indifferent to us … Such people are as common as a penny and just as valuable.

Shalom.

The salvation of this human world lies nowhere else than in the human heart, in power to reflect, in human meekness and human responsibility.

Vaclav Havel

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Salvation.  The heart + reflection + meekness + responsibility.  So observes Vaclav Havel.

Don’t see much of this around Washington these days.  Salvation is a word rarely heard since we began barring God from public conversation.  We can thank the marshmallow middle and the strident Left for that basic act of dislocation – as to the latter their inevitable preference for error.

Heart, reflection, meekness, responsibility.  Little of this here today.  Heartless is more the form.  Reflection, like thoughts of salvation, appears permanently shelved in favor of the instant news cycle where comments issue as frequently as pulse beats as politicos and “talking heads” tommy-gun out the “latest inside scoop” replete with “unnamed sources” (a delightful name for twins today, by the way).

Meekness, my God!  None of that here.  Washington is more a mob at Filene’s Basement tearing the bargain “name brand” apparel from one another in a melee resembling Wrestle-Mania gone mad.  Meekness, it seems, is too orderly and vulnerable for Washington today.  Gone is the obvious power of a calm and measured voice.

It follows there are few signs of responsibility – at least among the those who daily carp and complain, and report and exploit.

We could use some Vaclav Havel.  Inmates running an asylum never works well.

Shalom.

Footnote – Vaclav Havel is among the most interesting figures of the late last century and early 21st century.  A writer, philosopher, political dissident and politician who served as the last President of Czechoslovakia (1989-1902) and the first President of the Czech Republic (1903-2003).  A widely-esteemed and admired man or faith, courage, talent, heart, thoughtfulness, insight, humility, service and responsibility.  Don’t you wish we had such a presence here today. ‘Tis time to tell the children to be quiet.

Wisdom is meaningless until your own experience has given it meaning … and there wisdom is the selection of wisdom.

Bergan Evans

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Many time people tell me that their brother, sister, mother, spouse does not seem to understand their plight in life.  The complaint I hear tells of the suffering and estrangement of being unable to experience a connection between those who you know well and for a long time and a person facing significant trials, angst, uncertainty, suffering and pain.

I always remind these people that one of the hardest things to do is to experience the experience of another.

Why is that?

Well, the primary reason is this: people do not examine their own experience in life fully.

Most people ignore the actual event of life.  They live what is easy, pleasant, necessary – but avoid the unpleasant things, challenges, the mystery of their own life and experience.  In that avoidance, one cannot take on another’s plight.  That being the case, two people who know one another – even reside with one another – cannot maintain an intimate connection with one another.  Sad and commonplace, but unnecessary.

The answer?  Live deeply, not on the surface.  Reflect on what is presented to you – whether good or bad, difficult or easy.

We are given a life so it may be fully lived, fully explored and experienced.  If you fall short, you reduce yourself and likely lapse into a smallness that leads to your own disorder … and your ability to befriend and love others, and to be compassionate is put out of reach.

It is easier to say you feel another’s pain, than it is to feel another’s pain.

Shalom.

The moments of hell come when everything militates against the open heart.

Richard Rohr, in Everything Belongs

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Those things which are true rise up and converge.  You see, what is true and good is lighter than air, cannot be held down.  Did Christ not rise up?

In his book Everything Belongs, Catholic priest Richard Rohr reminds us that “Group-think is a substitute for God-think.”  Oh, that the Left might consider this as it applies to a whole range of its misbegotten ideas, “causes,” and views!  I think, in particular, of “identity politics” – the childish, godless idea that life is “my group/my view against your group/your view.”  Such an attitude translates thus: we are good, the other guys are bad.  It divides and makes enemies, not friends.

Identity politics (a Democrat staple for decades) is shameful.  It fosters idolatry.  It says me and my group are “special” and you are: a racist, a bigot, a Nazi, a misogynist, etc.

Closing the heart opens the doors of hell.  Identity politics closes the heart.

When we separate from one another we forego the enchantment that resides in faith, and hope, and belief.  We limit our full human development; we assault the Spirit, deny God and injure the soul of others.  Identity politics is assaultive, destructive, hate-filled.

Identity politics and its name-calling denies that we are all divinely created and each only a little less than God, made in God’s image. 

Identity politics blinds us.  It keeps us from the revelation of God – God as God resides in all of us, in all that sits within Creation, and rests in the world to come.

Over the last few years I have had some wonderful chance encounters with African-Americans, individuals who were strangers to me.  In the course of simple, friendly conversations we have each shared time as friends, neighbors – just people.  In these encounters I have taken the liberty, in the light of wonderful fellowship, to simply say to them: “Thank you.  I have so enjoyed our conversation. May I offer this opinion: I am so sick of those who divide us and keep us apart.”  In each case, my comments have been met with warmth and complete endorsement.

Friends, the open heart is the gateway to heaven.  Enough with “identity politics.” Brothers and sisters, neighbors and friends will do just fine.

Shalom.

Please join in a modest act of evangelization – share this post with others if you feel so inclined.

Remember St. Francis’s dying words: “I have done what was mine to do; now you must do what is yours to do.”

“No matter what the writer may say, the work is always written to someone, for someone, against someone.”

Walker Percy

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I sit alone to write.  I sit in quiet to write.  I write each day.  Normally before dawn.  Maybe at 2 a.m.  Maybe at daybreak.  Yes, I write to others.  To someone else.  To those met or those not yet met.  To the living and the dead.  To those before and those to come.  And to myself.

I write for, and I write against.  I write to all, to the family we are.

Writing: a message in a bottle.  My crucifixion.

I write alone … hanging on a tree.

Shalom.

On the day when the weight deadens on your shoulders and you stumble, may the clay dance to balance you.

John O’Donohue, in Anam Cara

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One of the reasons that I love being a Celt is that we do not fear death.  We scoff at it.  We think – So what’s new?  Is that all you got for me?  Is that your best card?

We are not for sale.  We understand a crucifixion.  We warm to the thought of living so we might warrant it one day.  Liberty is identity to us.  It leaves us a walk closer to God.  It means – we live no matter the obstacle.

If I gave my son Jared anything, it is this: fear not.  This is not the only game in town.  We play with “house money.”  Dinner on me.  Sing ’til the rafters roar.

This is Christ and we are His.

Our legacy – the love and laughter of our children … set in belief.

Yes, live right and the clay will dance under your feet.  Yes, in this you are a dread to those who dispense fear to the doubtful.  But you know – you trust … God prevails.  The clay moves.

That is how Believers live.  How Believers love.  Others do not understand.  In meeting and in memory they might learn – we lived as we believed.

Jolita’s Mom Emma died on April 17th.

Mid-April in Boston is a special time – when the Colonialists drove the British navy from Boston Harbor before the Revolution, and without firing a shot.  This: the convergence of faith, cunning and courage.  When the clay moved under foot.

My mother and my Uncle died then, too – and people sang in victory from voices of their loss.  I can, too.  That’s what we do.

Emma was, like Jo, a gentle soul.  Steady.  A lover.  Kindness flowed through her while we frolicked – one step short of conflict here or there.  She of the watchful eye, and loving heart.

Emma, like all the good ladies, loved us for who we were.  This holy disposition crosses ages. The “Emmas” teach of God’s love … as we face the wind blowing West off the ocean.

Yes, the clay does dance.  Rest in peace, Fair Lady.

Shalom.

Contrition is the salt of the Spirit.  Without it, there is no taste of goodness everlasting.

Bobby Sylvester

“Do not walk through time without giving worthy evidence of your passage.”

St. Pope John XXIII

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Carl’s funeral will be tomorrow.

Carl was 60 when he died.  I met him last summer.  He had retired from his work as a plumber after battling throat cancer.

First time I met him we talked easily about good things, especially his restored 1930’s Ford truck.  Like most guys who work with their hands, Carl could do pretty much anything that was “hands-on.”

Less than a week after I met him, I arrived back from Church and grocery shopping to find Carl mowing by severely uncut grass and the weeds it accommodated.  Surprised, I got out of my car with arms stretched out wide and a smile of disbelief on my face.

“Carl, what are you doing?” I said.   Over the hum and motion of the mower he replied, “Mowing your lawn …”  He then added, “I had nothing to do.”

That was Carl, a man of seamless friendship.  I was merely his latest beneficiary.

Thinking of Carl this week brought me back to a telephone conversation I had with my Dear Friend and legal colleague John, some years earlier.

Shortly after I began a year in a monastery setting in the mountains of Colorado, I got a call from John, still work-bound in Washington, D.C.

In that call, John asked me, “So what’s it like.”

With the emphasis on “it” I knew he was not talking weather, terrain, atmosphere, daily schedule or the like.  No, he was asking about the defining nature of daily life focused on faith, prayer, solitude, worship, silence, reflection, contemplation, study and physical labor.

My response: “Do you mean is there a special door you go through, a magic portal that changes you?”  “Ya,” he said.

Spontaneously I uttered this truth, “John, there is no special door. It’s all one-on-one basketball.  You against God everyday and he beats the devil out of you. If you show up each day, you get better.”

His apt reply, “I’m so relieved.”

Well folks, maybe there is a special door.  Maybe it is Carl.  Maybe it is my Dear Friend Jackie Quinn LaRocca who died last month.

The special door you ask?  Friendship.

Seamless friendship mediates the love of God and enkindles belief in us if we see it, recognize it and experience it – this seamless friendship.

Carl could not be other than a friend.  That was who he was.  It offered itself through him as he was made to give it – by doing for you, sharing what he had with you.  Jackie did the same.  Her most special trait was friendship served as welcome and ungarnished honesty, a perpetual sense of humor, and a sharp Irish eye for bluster, fraud, and fakery, and a delight in naming each plainly.

Loving and befriending this way as a friend is the special door.

Befriend others.  Know yourself honestly and give the way you are equipped to do so.

When you befriend you mediate the love of God and in a time of lost belief, you give ceaseless life to belief, and to those who will believe because of you.

Shalom.

Postscript – I gave both Carl and Jackie small rosaries when they were sick and hospitalized.  Each carried their rosaries everywhere they went.  Carl and his wife got baptized when his illness took its worse turn.  Jackie was buried with her rosary in her hands.  I suspect Carl will as well.  In friendship we believe and show we believe.  In friendship, we mediate God’s endless love of us, of each of us.   

When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping, he became … deeply troubled, and said, “Where have you laid him?”  They said to him, “Sir, come and see.”  And Jesus wept.

Jn 11:33, 34-35

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Some think that religion causes war.  Scholars refute this with evidence to the contrary. Yet, we do not venture to say: religious belief – belief in God might well humanize us – give us empathy for others – even those we do not know … the victims of violence, or disease, hunger or natural disasters in distant lands.

Jesus wept.

This passage records Jesus at the death of Lazarus.  When others wept, he was moved to tears as well – tears shed for their suffering, their loss, their sadness.

Does this not show his heart, his love, his humanity, his understanding, his empathy, his relationship with, and compassion for, others?  Is that not a lesson for us?  Has it not been a lesson for us? Humanized us?  Put us in relationship with God and others?  What other than this might trigger our empathy?  Our compassion?  Humility?  What other than this might cause us to care for those we have not met?  Do not know personally?  Provide us courage?  Courage to speak up?  To safeguard and defend others?  The capacity to comfort others?

What humanizes you?  Causes you to stand for others?  Risk your life?  Bring you to tears, and to prayer?

Look around.  Next time one attacks religion, those who live in and by faith, ask yourself: What humanizes us other than faith?

It is easy for us to come to anger.  Harder yet to love.  Left alone, without faith at hand – we anger more so than weep, more so than love.

Thank about it.

Shalom.

… they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, and they were amazed …

Acts 4:13

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This quote is from Chapter 4 of Acts.  It is from an account of Peter and John preaching to those who killed Christ.  Yes, when you believe – you speak with the confidence Peter and John and the other disciples.

Those who believe have the power within to witness in this way.  Fear not.  The words you speak are those of the God who dwells within.

What prepares us to witness in this way?

When we accept that God loves us unconditionally and remains with us always, we come to know that it is God acting within us that is the source of our confidence, and with that we speak what is true and heartfelt.

Likewise when we read and think about the Gospels, and the tales from the Old Testament, our relationship with God and our understanding of God, the Spirit and the experience of being human deepens, and we speak with something to say that others need to hear.  Yes, the recorded stories give us familiarity and courage, because those who have believed are just like us.

Consistent prayer builds in us the confidence displayed by John and Peter.  For in prayer we both listen and speak – and most importantly we acknowledge that we depend on God for support and guidance.  Yes, prayer shows our relationship with God, our dependence on a God who seeks our voice and our presence be shared with others as Believers.  Our confidence is the product of belief and our dependence on the God of love and fidelity.

This confidence grows as we face travail for in trials we become strong, wise and unafraid. Conviction strengthens in adversity and in opposition – but there, too, others experience your belief, your faith, the Truth you say and witness.

When you awake each day, you have escaped death once again, and you have rested in peace.  Are you not to gain confidence from this – that God has kept you still and safe so you might be His in each new day?

You believe.  You possess in belief – confidence.  Use it.  Our needs are great. Others falter and are lost, confused, upset, despairing …  Speak and act.  You are a Believer, a Disciple. Be about your Father’s business.

Shalom.

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