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“Woman, where are they?  Did no one condemn you? … I do not condemn you, either.  Go.  From now on sin no more.”

Jn 8: 10, 11

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These are the words of Jesus in the story of the adulterous woman.  They are directed to her.  What do they tell us?  Show us?

They show us the liberating love of Jesus.  They tell us that believing in Christ frees us from the lure of sin, reduces the temptation of sin.  They tell us that He who is crucified was crucified for us – so that we are as believers freed of the penalty of sin, its corruption of our soul.

In this story we see in Him that we are set free from the things in us: the hurt and uncertainty, the betrayals and disappointments, the lies of others, the power of pleasure and the scourge of loneliness and ridicule, the evil and chaos of the world, the poison fruits of the brokenness of others – even those in our family members.

In Christ, sin loses its power, its attraction, its hold on us.  In Christ, we live more fully – less apt to falter, more apt to prosper in all that is good and whole and meant for us as children of a Loving Father.

In Christ our path is clear, the shadows lessen, missteps are fewer.

To those who wonder why one might believe, I say this:  when faith is present in you, your life is better, more fulfilled, easier, more certain.

And, I add this: when a culture honors God and encourages faith, it knows peace, prosperity, brotherhood, fellowship, community – and divisions fade for they are of no use, and liberty lives in faithful self-restraint and care of others more than self.

Finally, I add this: we are today a far distance from faith in this culture and the evidence of that is present in a multitude of ways, everyday – day after day.

Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of Life.”

Jn 8:12

Without God in culture, evil flourishes.

It is time to overtly live in Christ; for, we know and can see before us that the wages of sin are death.

Shalom.

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On the Day of Justice Antonin Scalia’s Funeral Mass

 “… who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should taunt the armies of the living God?  … Let no man’s heart fail … The Lord … will deliver me from the hand of the Philistine.”

1 Sam 17: 26, 32, 37

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What is one to do when one, one’s faith, one’s honorable existence, one’s liberty, one’s land and one’s God is attacked from within and without?

We might learn from David who faced and slayed Goliath, while the armies of Israel were hesitant with fear.

The above are young David’s his words.  Chapter 17 of the First Book of Samuel contains the account of David’s faith and bravery.

So what might we learn?  That others will challenge us, our faith, our God, our people, our nation, our civilization, our religion, liberty, and existence.  Yes, others wish us harm. Some are within.  Some are without.  But evil comes when God is denied and thus God must not be denied if we are to survive and flourish.

Victory comes to those who believe and act on that belief.

Dismissing God is not an option.

Yes, first we learn David’s great lesson.  And it is this: fear not, the Lord will deliver the Believer from the hand of the godless aggressor.

Yes, we live in David’s time.  No one who denies God can lead to anything but sin, failure, capitulation, retreat and defeat.  Reject those who do not believe. Listen not to them for they are full of fear and godlessness.  Their ways lead to death.

Be brave.  Have faith, and show it.  The hearts of those who believe do not fail.

Shalom.

Anyone who does not know that we are in a battle for this land and our faith and liberty has not grown up in Boston nor share the Celtic blood, I can assure you.

Please share this post with others who might welcome it – or need its perspective.  Thank you.  God speed.

The Blizzard has passed.  Morning has dawned.  A gentle light rises softly and slowly above the mountains.  A new day is here and with it hope and opportunity.

Light passing through the dark pulsar of outer space becomes visible when it encounters an object.  So it is too with spiritual light.  It becomes discernible when it kindles the heart and illuminates the mind.  I call it “dark light of love.” (Emphasis added.)

John S. Dunne, in Dark Light of Love

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My best childhood friend, George, is in a nursing home.  I have known him since we were two, our homes but one door apart.  His mother and my mother good friends and close confidants.  I was in George’s home as much as my own.  His brothers were my brothers.   I know his life like I know my own.

Yet, to me, his brother Jerry, and his long time friends, we wonder about his life, how he could have lived as he did – chosen as he did, held a course that injured him relentlessly – a long journey of isolation and conflict.

Bright and able as he was, he had a running battle with his father, with authority and he folded more and more deeply into a marriage to a woman who entered matrimony with a deeply ingrained resentment of the father who deserted her and her mother, and a bleak and consistent intention of experiencing George in the constant embers of her coals of anger and disregard.

I remember in a particularly turbulent time when I asked him: Why do you stay with her? His response, “Oh, I can’t leave her, I love her.”

I remember my confusion.  Is his love deeper than mine?  Is he sick?  Insane? Who loves one who hates and objects, and resents in return?

For years I have not understood this.

Alas, John Dunne gives me the answer.  To enkindle the dark light of love one must ignite the Spirit, must include a relationship with God – Yes, the Spirit and God are the condition precedent to love’s light, to love expressed as it is made, in its purity and eternity – lived in a healthy manner.

So many good people, like George, seek to love without the Spirit, without God – it cannot be done.  Short of the Spirit and God, love has no light, only bitter darkness and endless cold, and ceaseless pain and loneliness; it is then but a candle never let to flame.

We are as a culture profoundly destructive for thinking that we might love, or be wise or fully human without the Spirit, without God.  Alas, let George and John Dunne teach us this lesson.

Shalom.

Note – We often hear reassuring stories about people helping one another when there is a disaster in places like New York City, but, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am here to tell you that neighbor helping neighbor is commonplace in the South, in the country … in Texas and the heartland of small farming towns.  The best of us is not cosmopolitan but rather in the every day of the heartland – the America that the “important” people forget except to disdain. 

I know this in three feet of snow and drifts even higher – people help one another – as God would expect of us.  This is America at its very best.  Thank God for it.

… authority must derive its obligatory force from moral order, which in turn has God for its first source and final end.

Pope John XXIII, in Pacem in Terris

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Power, authority and human autonomy.

These are interesting notions which often meet at the same intersection.  We are, after all, living mostly in power structures.  Work, for example.  School. Under law.  Government as it “governs.” Even families can exist as power structures.

Ironically, so-called political “movements” of one sort or another, those who band together to plead one thing or another, are mostly mere reflections of existing power structures – especially those who preach “liberation.”

This is stunningly true in recent political movements like “women’s liberation” which morphs into a power structure which, like all power structures, demands conformity and ends up being, like all power structures, a few self-claiming “leaders” demanding conformity of others with the predictable result that those who differ are exiled, ruled out of “the liberation movement.”  No soup for you who dare to differ.  Who claim your own voice.  Autonomy.

Yes, in power structures those with independence are exiled most often, and the charismatic in the ranks is exiled most quickly.

You see, power structures do not welcome human autonomy.  It threatens the people at the top of the structure.  Sameness is best for the narrow who govern.

Funny thing, but those who seek power are often the weakest, those of less autonomy, the less secure, the less well-formed.

Thank heavens that is not always the case.  We do get leaders like President Eisenhower – a confident, self-contained, accomplished, humble, experienced autonomous person in his own right.

Yet we get people like Lyndon Johnson, Bill Clinton, Barrack Obama – whose biographies tell you they are less well developed, each coming from difficult backgrounds they seem not to have mastered and have left their significant marks.

Often those who seek authority, actually lack autonomy themselves.  You can tell them many ways but one is this: they do not share power.  They rule by fiat and live without friends.  They are their own, exclusive counsel. You might see a president who “governs” by executive order, exceeds his lawful authority, does little, works to the exclusion of his military leaders, or the Congress and this presents the question: Is he ready for authority?

As to the individual who exists within a power structure and its authority: note authority contains the word “author.”  Ask yourself are you, in the structure you find yourself, able to be the author of your own personhood within that structure? Or are you made an object only?  Can you claim your own autonomy? Creativity? Identity? Life?

And remember that power over you must show you a moral order, authority that has as its first and only source God.

Yes, one nation under God.  All that would govern us under God.  Anything less lacks authority and does not to destroy than to build.

Shalom.

Footnote – I have followed politics for a long time.  I remember seeing Ike Eisenhower motorcade through my city in an open Cadillac convertible when he first ran in 1952.  I lived and worked in Washington, in the Congress and as a lawyer in private practice.

I can tell you the most salient change for the worse that I have seen is this: I knew the Congress and politics before people who sought office sought celebrity – needed the office to “complete them” much like a movie star needs to be in the news, have their picture taken, receive public admiration.

Alas, we now have needy people where public servants once stood.

Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws.  On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.

Frederic Bastiat

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Law and man.

We concede too quickly to law as if it were God.  Law is only man.  It is not the First Principle, nor the Last Principle.  Too often it is expropriated by men who seek to control and fortify their own advantage.  Ironically, the best lawyers are those who have a healthy disregard for the “loftiness” of law who see it, and themselves, as within the realm of mortal man.

The Gospel of Luke makes this point in a brilliant manner.  (Lk 5:17-39)

In this passage we find Jesus and his critics, the Pharisees and teachers of the law.  In this passage, you recall, that Jesus encounters the paralyzed man who is carried to him on a stretcher by his friends.  Seeing the faith of the man Jesus proclaims: “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”

The Pharisees take exception to Jesus’ words reasoning that only God can forgive sins.  Jesus, in turn, rebuffs them for “reasoning in their hearts.”  Man’s law, you see, is easily captive to reason and blind to faith.

Likewise in this passage Jesus summons Levi, a tax collector, to his side and dines with Levi and his follow tax collectors.  Again the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, who deemed themselves better than others, take exception that Jesus would be in the company of “sinners.”

When men act it often happens that pride sets in and that which was First is lost.  When we deem our genius we often forget who made us.  When we accede to lofty positions of authority we can easily forget we are merely custodians and imperfect at that.

Man’s law is not God and cannot be made so simply by its pronouncement – no matter the voice of man who speaks.

In cultures what present a cult of public authority as supreme, God is needed to put the scales in balance and restore perspective.

At our best we are merely servants under God.  Just as we did not invent life, liberty and property – we did not create ourselves, marriage nor morality.  He who is the First Principle remains the First Principle.

Shalom.

“If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”

Lk 17:6

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Change is hard and especially so when you are denominated in a structured way – and by that I mean: if you have been converted to ways of thinking and being that are dictated by the institutions you occupy or the narrow confines of others and ways of thinking that are exclusive of the horizons of the unknown – faith.

Yes, if you possess a faith the size of a seed you can change your life in ways that will surprise you.  Faith liberates.  Faith in play is courage.  Faith in play builds confidence, awakens your soul, reveals you and The One who made you.

Think about it.  Listen to those who have a freedom of movement and joy in their being, those who went from despair to happiness – from death to life.

See the one who is no longer a prisoner to time, one who is free of fear, one who gives joyfully and without exhaustion.  See the one who left the job they hated to work that made them whole.  See the one freed from the broken and injurious relationship.  See the one who no longer blames others for their past unhappiness and for whom unhappiness is past.

Faith.  Yes, faith. 

We are often our own prison guards.  Faith is the key to freedom.

Be stalwart in your faith, strong to resist all that is contrary to faith and your freedom and fulfullment.  Christ shows us The Way.

In faith there is no fear.

” … the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free

… For what the law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

… the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God …”

Rom 8:2-4, 6-7

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The role of law and the place of Spirit is a very significant idea to unbundle.  Is adherence to law sufficient to know good and do it?

St. Paul is telling us that as mere mortals, weak in flesh, we are unable to effect the good through mere adherence to the law, to that which is prescribed.

We might say that the human is not fundamentally juridical, perfected by mere adherence to the law.  More is needed.

What more?  Life in the Spirit.

For the Christian this highlights what Christ is showing us in his presence. Jesus is enlivening the law, seeking our spiritual engagement, teaching us that we are, by nature, embodied spirits, souls not merely mortal human beings.

The Gospels are opening a new way of being for us, emphasizing our true nature – that of living in the Spirit, more deeply than one who lives by law alone.

How vital it is for us to understand this today.

We are a culture of rules and regulations, not rich in spontaneous compassion; we are not a culture that schools its citizens in living in the Spirit.  We see the cost of this neglect everyday in multiple and destabilizing ways.  We have been exacerbating this weakness from the Renaissance forward as we have stressed the individual, individual rights, legalism and burdened each with finding meaning individually.

In placing burdens on the flesh, on the imperfect human person and the institutions the person creates to administer to the culture, we are banking on the person and the law.  We see this is a losing wager.  The fabric of the culture frays, then rips and the structure collapses in time.  We are living through this today.

Returning to life in the Spirit is the only alternative available.  Welcome aboard.

” … they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues, and salutations in the marketplace …”

Jesus Speaking of the Scribes and Pharisees, Mt 23:6

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Jesus was consistently critical of the Pharisees.  It is useful to think about why this was so and in particular what he found fault with in them that so disturbed him.  One can, in thinking about this, take a critical look at one’s own value structure and how we live.

In the above quote from a longer discourse (Mt.23:1-36), Jesus identifies their love of comforts and esteem.

We are subject to the seduction of comforts and esteem. We like to be undisturbed, unharried and we enjoy the esteem others bestow on us. I saw this in working with lawyers in Washington, D.C. and other locales.

In the two and a half years I have been engaged in spiritual care ministry among lawyers, I never found a lawyer, judge, law professor or a dean of a law school who disagreed with my view that those in the legal profession suffered high levels of depression, alcoholism, suicide, unhappiness and career dissatisfaction.  Not one dissenter.  But likewise, I found no one in the profession willing to do anything overt and public to attend to these problems and others as well.

Yes, there are employment assistance plans and yes, there are bar funded lawyer assistance programs – but neither attacks the problems head-on, openly and in a public way.  Each can be a benign and very marginally engaged effort.  Neither attends to the core problem: the soul of the lawyer and their inability to integrate successfully the experience of being a full human while practicing law.

I am told by bar executives and treatment administrators that the levels of prescription drug abuse among young professionals, lawyers very much included, is growing very, very significantly.  I have heard of this use among young lawyers from excellent schools.  Some call it “epidemic.”  Yet, no public effort from those in the legal professionpracticing lawyers, deans, managing partners.

Comfort and esteem.  We are comfortable being comfortable.  I call this the “pharisaical disease.”

When we are too comfortable to attend to problems that kill others, we are too comfortable.  When we are too comfortable to live in truth, we are too comfortable.  When we are too comfortable to care for our souls, we are too comfortable.  When we are too comfortable to live a faith we profess, we are too comfortable.  When we are too comfortable to love another, we are too comfortable.

Wonder what Jesus might say to us on this?  Perhaps this: “Woe to you blind guides …” (Mt 23:16).

“Judas  …  said … ‘I have sinned by betraying innocent blood’ … Throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed: and he went and hanged himself.”

Mt 27: 4,5

“Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last breath.”

 Mk 15:37

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Former professional football player Junior Seau took a gun to his chest yesterday.  Apparent suicide.  He was 43.  Forty-three.

Forty-three.

He left his mother, his father, siblings, his children and a large family behind. Yes, some will say this was because of frequent concussions and that may well be so.  But the greater issue is suicide and how common it is.

There are almost twice as many suicides each year in the United States as there are murders, as many suicides each year as there are deaths from breast cancer or from HIV-AIDs.

We hear of breast cancer and AIDs but there are no mouth pieces for suicides. Suicides have no friends.  No, it strikes too close to us in this alienating, lonely, deadly culture.  Acknowledging suicide takes courage and we are a culture without courage.  Courage takes faith and we lack faith.  Indeed we suppress faith.  It is, you know, for the “weak,” “uneducated,” “superstitious, “the uncool.”

Truth is the secular fear faith for to be faithful is to be free of control, independent, ultimately in no need of others telling us what to do.

If there is one gnawing pain I suffer from my work with professionals and their injuries it is this: lawyers and judges do not deny that suicide is a very serious problem within the legal profession – they simply turn their backs on the matter.   To acknowledge the reality of suicide is too much honesty for those who deal in “truth.”

Our disinterest in suicide as a major problem in exclusionary secular culture is shameful and inexcusable.  Shame on us.

I have never been much for denying reality.  Ironically, I am at a loss to imagine the value of lawyers who do, for to ignore reality diminishes the bravery demanded of advocates who seek justice for all.

Jesus cried out and breathed his last breath.  Judas hung himself.  Which of the two are we?

The Catholic understanding of God comes down to this: God is ipsum esse – “being itself.”   By this we mean God as an active and eternal Presence that exceeds all things, as St. Anselm says “that than which nothing greater can be thought.”

Evil, in contrast, is understood to be not something but a deprivation, a lack of what ought to be, a denial, a negation, a rejection.  The great Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain identifies evil as the “absence of being, privation of being or of good.”  He says simply “(E)vil is a vacuum or lack of being or of good, a nothingness …”

If God is Being and evil is the absence of being, then our failure to be is evil.

What does this mean?

To reject the gift of being, of life is evil.  When one lives less a life than one has been given, one defaults to evil.  When life is rejected, killed, diminished – evil is done.  When full life is denied evil is extolled.  A culture that denies life in the full is an evil culture.

Have your ear peaked to listen for those times when life is denied.  Be alert to them, they compromise us if we are not alert.

Recently we had an example of a matter that illustrates the importance of contemplating Being and evil.  It arises in the sad Penn State case involving allegations that a long time University coach was seen engaging in unlawful actions with a minor.  The question of evil turns in this episode to those who passed reports on to their superiors and then did little or nothing when those reports appeared to go unheeded.  Was the mere reporting of the incident sufficient unto itself or was more required of the reporter?

Seen through the lens of Being and evil, one can ask: Was this failure to do more a deprivation of Being?  Was it evil?

I for one side with Maritain.  To merely report a wrongdoing and let years pass with no apparent concern for a lack of action as to the wrongdoing is a deprivation of good, a denial of Being, a furtherance of evil.  I will go one step further and say that when we applaud the mere reporting of the incident as a heroic act we show little understanding of God or evil and the difference between the two.

Regrettably, a large University audience recently stood and applauded the mere reporting and subsequent inaction as a good thing, something to be honored.  Not a good sign.

Best pay attention to these things.  Societies rise or fall on the strength of our understanding and action as to God and evil.

 

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