Wednesday, January 17, 2018

THE POWER OF LITTLE


                                                          



Decades ago my then spiritual director told me he had been praying for me and heard in his heart from the Lord to tell me the Lord wanted me to do: “Exceedingly little things for love of Me!”

I should note that at the time I was pastor of three parishes, frequently giving missions in other parishes, giving lectures, writing, teaching – sort of big stuff, at least for a priest.

Learning to do little things, things that mostly go unnoticed, was/is a tough lesson to learn, to do, to trust.

Examples of the power of little from Scripture are numerous, among them, these from Jesus Himself: St. John tells us how Jesus used a little of His own spit and some earth to make mud and heal a man’s blindness [Jn.9:6ff], St. Luke tells us how Jesus took a few little fish and loaves of bread to feed thousands [Lk.9:16ff], St. Mark reveals to us the power of a cup of water [Mk.9:41ff], and St. Matthew reveals to us how we shall be judged upon little things like giving someone attention in various ways [Mt.25:31ff] – all examples and more of Jesus simplifying life for us to do little things, for each  other, thus for Him.

Long before I was a priest, I was on staff in a soup kitchen [ bus fare in those days was only 25 cents].

One day I observed and overheard a conversation between an elderly man and a very young man.

It was a bitterly cold winter day and the older man was going to take the bus to the shelter while the young man wanted to take the bus across the river for, he said, a chance for a job.

The old man said that all he had was 25 cents.

The young man was crestfallen.

The old man gave him his quarter – a little coin really.

Not everyone will ask for help, no matter how little the help they need may be.

However, big need or small need, if we are always waiting to be asked we will miss vital clues about need.

Yesterday I was on one of the smaller buses used on routes with not a lot of demand. One woman had been waiting at the stop with me and we had been chatting about family. When we boarded the bus, there was only one other passenger, an elderly woman.

When there was a pause in our conversation about family the other passenger said: “I have no one.”

Almost in unison the other woman and myself said: “We’re here, you have us.”

Awareness is the key to the power of the little.

Awareness of other.

If we are other aware, rather then predominately self-aware, then we will hear clearly, see clearly, and love’s imagination will reveal to us the myriad of little things we can do – and their power will do what it did for that woman on the bus: she smiled for she had been recognized, embraced as a person, included.






Saturday, January 13, 2018

WANTING TO BE GOD


                                                          

Many years ago, a wonderful priest who, from the founding of his community until his death was the general superior, told me of getting a long and excruciatingly detailed letter from the superior of one of the congregation’s mission houses and how he had sent the letter back with this comment under the end of the letter: “You want to be God, job already taken!”

The other day I chuckled when Pope Francis told this old bromide in an address, one I have heard from other priests over the years:  An elderly woman came to confession and spent a long time listing the sins of others until finally she stopped expecting absolution. The gentle priest said to her: “Wonderful. Now that you have listed the sins of our neighbours, how about confessing your own!”

Ever listed God’s sins?

There is throughout the human family a dangerously dark, angry, violent tendency, today perhaps more than ever in human history, to judge, condemn, blame and when we do so, when we give into xenophobia, racism, blaming, rejecting we are factually accusing God of sin.

Since everyone is made in His image and likeness to evaluate, judge another human being is to accuse God of the sin of creating a flawed, broken, less than worthy of existence someone.

To objectively state that Islamist terrorists are doing evil acts is not only appropriate but shining a necessary light into the darkness – however to name an individual, be they a terrorist or……[choose one] – as evil is to usurp what is God’s alone, judging, for He alone sees what is the actual state of our hearts.

When I was working in the inner city, long before ordination, in a soup kitchen, there was a woman who even among the homeless was rejected, abused, because she was not just a prostitute but one totally lacking in any degree of self-respect.

Yet one day when a huge, drunk man was attacking me she used the only talent she had to distract him, lead him away, and literally saved my life, for I was being attacked by the man using a broken beer bottle, trying to slit my throat.

A few days later the police found her body in a ravine.

Jesus said of another woman, and I say in His Name of that woman, much has been forgiven her because she loved much [Lk.7:36-50] and indeed she showed, for me, that greater love of which Jesus tells us [Jn.15:13].

Globally everyone in the 21st century is reading back into history to find reasons why everyone outside our own group is to blame for all our groups’ perceived wounds, frustrations, etc., etc.

While objectively in the past one group did do horrible things to another, to be in bondage to blame and unceasingly demanding some form of compensation/redress ultimately is wasted energy and simply prevents any form of healing or reconciliation – be it unfolding within groups, between nations, religions, within families etc.

Our time and energy, our love and creative energies are better spent discovering how we can heal internally, that is within the group, between nations, within marriage and family, etc., indeed be healed ourselves.

The way is found within the Person of Christ, within the Gospel, within the moral and social teachings of the Church.

No amount of changing of laws, no amount of money will heal one single wound.

Only love is strong enough, creative enough, generous enough to heal and renew.

Nations do it, religions do it, populations regarding government do it, management does it, workers do it, spouses, parents, children, siblings, neighbours, friends, even we against ourselves do it: judge, blame, reject, wallow in unrelenting stress and an ever growing disconnect from love, peace, unity, all because we fail to head Christ’s admonition and warning about the consequences of judging and judgement: Matthew 7:2 & Luke 6:37.

We need to rediscover the difference between objective observation, for example Islamic terrorism is evil and therefore must end, and judgement: naming so and so as an evil person.

Only when, with putting on the eyes of Christ, I see other as one like myself, beloved child of God who is love, will true healing and reconciliation be possible.

The objective observation [the polar opposite of judgement] is necessary if we are to identify and respond as needed to any threat to human beings/society – thus we all need to re-learn and live out, without compromise, both the entire Gospel and the teachings of the Church, such as in Bl. Pope Paul’s Humane Vitae and St. John Paul’s The Gospel of Life.

Failure to do so, and quickly, means we are persistently, all along the way poisonously, angrily judging and condemning, heading towards and off the proverbial cliff, only this time our whole civilization will crash and burn. [Lk. 13: 1-5]









            


Sunday, December 24, 2017

CHRIST IS BORN, WHERE, WHY?


                                                  


In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled. Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn….{Lk. 2: 1, 4-7} In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it……And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us….{Jn. 1:1-5 & 14}


St. Luke gives the name of the place, how it came to be, that Mary and Joseph found shelter in a cave where Jesus is born and laid in a manger.

St. John notes further that Jesus makes His dwelling among us.

St. John Chrysostom in a Christmas homily calls us to: Behold a new and wonderous mystery.

How then do we behold this new, wonderous mystery of where, why is Christ born?

By going into the depths, as swimming deep in the ocean, way below the surface, where rays of sunlight still penetrate and where, in a sense, we are both in the living waters and bathed in light.

His dwelling among us is more, much more, than ‘among us’ as we are among others on a crowded train, busy street.

Sunlight penetrates skin, air permeates our lungs and blood.

It is in this permeating, indwelling sense that Christ IS born among us.

Mary, Joseph, and the newborn Jesus, were homeless, forced from their home and town by government edit.

Jesus is born among, and within the manger-heart of every human person, be it during war, ethic cleansing, famine, or other disaster, who is forcibly uprooted and rendered homeless or in a refugee camp.

In His life among us He experiences hard work, poverty, calumny, rejection, betrayal, false accusation, hunger, thirst, such extreme mental anguish He sheds blood, experiences abuse, torture, execution, burial.

Therefore, He is born within the manger-heart of everyone who is bullied, lied about, rejected for whatever reason, of each person who is exhausted by hard work, including those in consecration and labour camps, forced as children to work as slaves or child soldiers; He is born within the manger-heart of every abused woman, man, child, within those hidden places of human suffering in isolation cells, mental health wards, ICU’s and hospices, prison cells, the deep loneliness of orphanages, old age homes, the dank, dark dangerous alleys where hearts painfully beat under cardboard boxes, in the cold, there, there He is excited to be born.

The manger-hearts of those suffering mental illness alone, perhaps in denial, addictions of all sorts or having to sell themselves to have food or the illusory comfort of some momentary connection; in the always at risk manger-hearts of the watchmen in the military, police forces, fire departments, ambulance services: here too He is passionate to be born.

There is no condition of any human heart, no place on earth, where He is not amongst us as surely as Our Lady places Him in the manger and St. Joseph watches over Him.

The human heart: this IS where Christ is born.

O ineffable grace. The Only Begotten, Who is before all ages…..has now put on my body…..that I may be capable of His Word; taking my flesh, He gives me His spirit; and so He bestowing and I receiving, He prepares me for the treasure of Life. He takes my flesh to sanctify me; He gives me His Spirit, that He may save me. {St. John Chrysostom}


Thursday, December 07, 2017

HOW LIBERALISM'S CONSEQUENCES ARE DEHUMANIZING CIVILIZATIONS


         

I have been struggling to write this for some time.


Then when I awoke early this morning this northern city was blanketed by such a thick fog and ice crystals you could not see across the street and I understood we are indeed as a civilization around the world, the whole human family, desperately trying to find our way, yes to do battle, in a fog of ideological war thicker even than we understand and even more poisonous than the smog which has engulfed Delhi for weeks now.

Ask most people what are, the greatest threats to civilization and at least part of their answer will include Islamist terrorists, economic stress, overall anxiety.

The greatest threat, is relativism, the child of poisonous philosophies dating back to the so-called Age of Enlightenment.

Relativism has so permeated civilization, even to a certain extent infected Christianity, that the danger to our cultural, intellectual, political, economic and faith lives is a clear and present danger.

Unpack any aspect of what has so many millions and millions of people stressed, fearful, virtually hopeless and you will find the destructive virus, the poisoning bacteria of relativism in its many variations.

 Some terms:

Fog of war is that fearful confusion and uncertainty experienced in the chaos of battle.

The roots of the current fog of war and chaos throughout human society, of the fear, anger, shouting which disables hearing other, let alone listening dispassionately to their point of view, which may change nothing but at least is honest communication, those roots are sourced deep, and millennia ago, reaching their culmination in the age of so-called enlightenment.

Enlightenment stresses individualism and human reason rather than tradition. The Achilles heal of this approach is it uproots us from the acquired wisdom of the past, opens the door to destructive philosophies such as utilitarianism, fragments family and society and leads to the current climate where the “I” as my rights, or my group’s, trump everyone else’s.

Flowing from the so-called age of enlightenment, comes liberalism, whose prime tenet is tolerance, but is applied in ways which lead to the radicalism of intolerance.

A prime aspect of the liberalism society: humanism which attaches primary importance to the so-called autonomous self. Liberalism, without even listening to counter argument/objective truth, asserts there is no place for the divine, that is the existence of God and His Law, thus humanists’ base everything on the conviction that the rational and autonomous self is ultimately the arbiter of everything, hence mantras such as: “That may be true for you but not for me!”

In the Renaissance period there were some scholars who attempted a form of Christian humanism, but this is self-contradictory for one is either a Christian, thus one who believes in the Divine and follows His Law, or one is a humanist who refuses to be bound by God or the things of God.

Erasmus tried to bridge the divide with his notion of via media, thereby irritating both sides! Via media means moderation, leading ultimately to compromise, in all thoughts and actions. Via media, the so-called middle way, had a certain popularity among some Christians until around the turn from the 19th to the 20th century and had a brief revival in the 1960’s.

Can there be, however, for faithful Christians any form of via media, one that is a non-compromising center?

Yes, and it is to be right there with Christ on the Cross, centered in Him.

If we are centered on and in Christ, rooted in the Gospel of life, we will neither fail to defend the sacredness of life, for example, from the womb to the tomb, nor deny compassionate understanding for those on either extreme of the issues at hand.

Compassion means a willingness to understand the pain of other, to dispassionately dialogue with them, to walk with them, as Jesus with the disciples on the road to Emmaus, as long as is needed for conversion of heart to take place.

Then there is conservative/conservatism : the people who embrace conservative social, political, economic, religious ideals drive the liberal side absolutely nuts.

When the two groups encounter each other rarely is there a dispassionate conversation about ideas, in fact at its mildest the encounter results in each side trying to out scream the other, at its worst riots ensue.

An authentic conservative is a person with a deep understanding of the human person, of objective moral truth, compassion for the poor, understanding for those suffering any form of discrimination, is a person who exercises political and economic wisdom but who is portrayed by the liberal media and their fellow travelers as emotional Neanderthals, as the guilty party for every ill in human affairs since Adam was a little boy.

Conservatives understand history in its length, complexity, its unfolding. Liberals do too, unfortunately they are more likely to cherry pick and seek to re-write history, which is disingenuous at best, a type of ‘fake news’ at its worst, to sustain their so-called progressive agenda.

Both sides need to learn dispassionate communication/dialogue skills: the liberal mentality blames all human ills on Christianity, for example, and then goes apoplectic when a conservative wins an election; conservatives blame all absence of morals, societal ills, jobs losses on liberals and likewise go apoplectic when some liberal wins an election.

Blaming hurts, blaming angers, blaming closes the mind and heart to dialogue.

Both sides do it.

The chasm grows ever wider, ever deeper, the fog ever thicker.

There is also nihilism which at its core is the rejection of all principles, religious and moral, which leads to people living lives of not so quiet, but truly hopeless, materialist, hedonistic desperation.

Exhaustingly searching for meaning, a search flawed by its very nature, for the search is conducted within a maze of philosophical ideas, quick fix systems, wherein the individuals on this search are simultaneously bent towards themselves and split, as it were walking beside themselves, for unable to accept the splendid truth that they have neither self-created their beings, nor can self-sustain existence, they wander the maze of each day ever more distant from themselves and the splendour of truth, the fullness of life, existence, the inexhaustibility of experiencing the constancy of Love Himself who creates and sustains us, calls us to communion of love with Himself always seeking us, seeking leave to allow Him entry into our being as life itself, the way of life, as truth.

The very evil child spawned by all the others, a type of philosophical slurry permeating, poisoning, engulfing civilization, one human heart, one human soul, one human mind, one human will at a time until we find ourselves living in the darkness and death, the fearful confusion, the disintegrating of contemporary civilization, headed towards a catastrophe beyond imagining: Relativism: this notion/idea has morphed from mere philosophy into the dominate doctrine that knowledge, truth, and morality exist in relation to culture, society, or historical context, and are not absolute!

Hence: cognitive, moral [ethical if you wish], situational, dogmatic relativism:

Cognitive relativism:   cognitive refers to relating to, being, or involving conscious intellectual activity (such as thinking, reasoning, or remembering): based on or capable of being reduced to empirical factual knowledge. It should be noted there is a serious weakness therein:  “Cognitive dissonance”, a psychological term describing the uncomfortable tension that may result from having two conflicting thoughts at the same time; engaging in behavior that conflicts with one's beliefs, and is prevalent among our contemporaries: for example, those who profess they are Catholic YET go along with things society accepts but which contradict revealed, objective truth such as direct abortion, the evil of murdering a defenceless, pre-born human being.

This dissonance is the natural offspring of cognitive relativism, which affirms that all truth is relative to the individual person.

As this prevails within the mindset of a society no ‘system’ of truth can possibly be more authentic than any other, nor have more influence than any other, so inevitably society/civilization finds itself without any universal standard of truth and so what follows is, name any field: religion, politics, economics, philosophy, etc., etc., is the predominance of having no understanding of consequences/responsibility/ because the entitled/self-centered-self “I” dominates, devoid of any ability to understand “other” as one like myself. Ultimately then comes the denial of God who is Himself absolute truth and within that denial of God and of objective truth comes the complete loss of any understanding of the true self and our place within the human family, on this earth, in this cosmos.

Moral relativism: this reduces moral choices/ethical choices, to those relative to the consensus of the group, such as political parties or extremists of one hue or another, in which these choices are formed and found, hence moral relativism does not, indeed cannot, admit of any moral/ethical code or behaviour which could be accepted as universal in its principles or choices.

Situational Relativism: The rather over simplified definition of situational relativism/ethics declares it is the situation which determines the morality, the rightness or wrongness, of the choice a person makes. Existentialists, like Kierkegaard, as well as others like Sartre and Heidegger pushed this situational type of ethics and, frankly unfortunately as with humanism, presuming the best of intentions, some Christian scholars, such as Bultmann, Niebuhr, Bonhoeffer, asserting the priority of ‘agape’ as the litmus test for choice, suggest therefore a Christian form of situational relativism/ethics.

It is true Jesus gives us the Great Commandment, the summation and fullness of all commandants, that we are to love God, love one another, as we love ourselves, which means to love self as God loves me.

All true love is visible in action.

Situational ethicists, who claim to be Christian, claim situational relativism is justified by their appeal to the ancient tradition of agape.

Agape, from the Greek and adopted early in the life of Christianity as that highest of all forms of charity must, as is the reality of true love, be other directed: God’s love for us, our love for God, our love for one another, for love is self-gift to other.

Therefore, there must be, of necessity, a clear and immutable code/law of love which trumps every situation.

This means asking for the gifts of prudence, discernment, truth-thinking, from the Holy Spirit.

Finally, and a false theory which facilitates among Christians in particular, relativism in all it forms, there is dogmatic relativism:  Those who espouse this theory assert that all the dogmas of the Christian faith are time- and circumstance-conditioned as if God’s self-revelation was not completed in the age of the Apostles but somehow is ongoing and thus this theory completely negates the teaching authority of the Church.

Yes, there are potentially many things which threaten individuals, societies, civilization and the human family, from plagues to terrorism and wars and a plethora of others.

What, truly, is the greatest threat to us as individuals and as the community of nations, to civilization itself?

External threats, albeit with immense suffering, death, trauma, we human beings have shown, do show, an extraordinary capacity to deal with them, to come to the rescue of one another.

It is rather the internal threat, that is what threatens our capacity for rational thought, for wisdom in choice, for peace of mind, heart, soul, which poses the most pernicious, and difficult to confront danger.

It is, like an ever-thickening fog, ever deepening darkness, ever spreading wave of death, revealing how millions of people, indeed entire societies are either not confronting the evil or apparently are unaware/ chose to ignore this reality, because of not being open to the wisdom of God, exemplified in the person and teachings of Christ and the constant reiterating of His Person and teachings by the Church.

This dangerous threat clearly is relativism in all its forms for fundamentally relativism, including situational and dogmatic relativism is foundationally atheistic, diametrically opposed to Christianity.

Take the matter of the blasphemous use of the Most Holy Name of Jesus, a stable utterance for decades in innumerable films, television series, novels.

While the left is obsessed with its rather fluid concept of so-called Islamophobia, it allows for no such assertion about those who attack Christianity.

Ever wonder, why those same people never utter the name of Mohamed in such a way?

No doubt they are smart enough to know if they did so, they would likely, and quite literally, loose their heads.

So, how to we find our way, safely, through the fog, out of the poisonous darkness of the culture of death?

As a boy growing up in one of the major seaports of this world I was used to the sound of foghorns, the circling lights of the lighthouses when the fog was thick or the seas rougher than usual.

These guides for ships to keep them safely away from being smashed against rocky shores, or stranded, immobile, on a sand bar, serve as a reminder we, in the fog of war and the darkness of the culture of death, have beacons and a voice to guide us: Christ our Light Himself and His words, and the beacon of the Church and Her teachings.

From the treasury of the Gospels and the Church:

Jesus says: “I am the light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” [Jn. 8:12]

Matthew 5: 1-16 is that part of the Sermon on the Mount which is the one side of the template for authentic agape, indeed St. Augustine says: “If any one will piously and soberly consider the sermon which our Lord Jesus Christ spoke on the mount, as we read it in the Gospel according to Matthew, I think that he will find in it, so far as regards the highest morals, a perfect standard of the Christian life: and this we do not rashly venture to promise, but gather it from the very words of the Lord Himself. For the sermon itself is brought to a close in such a way, that it is clear there are in it all the precepts which go to mould the life. For thus He speaks: Therefore, whosoever hears these words of mine, and does them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that hears these words of mine, and does them not, I will liken unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it. Since, therefore, He has not simply said, Whosoever hears my words, but has made an addition, saying, Whosoever hears these words of mine, He has sufficiently indicated, as I think, that these sayings which He uttered on the mount so perfectly guide the life of those who may be willing to live according to them, that they may justly be compared to one building upon a rock. I have said this merely that it may be clear that the sermon before us is perfect in all the precepts by which the Christian life is moulded…..” {Commentary on the Sermon on the Mount}

The other side of the authentic agape template is found in Matthew 25:35-40, where Jesus tells us “I was hungry, etc. and you fed me….”

To appreciate what Jesus teaches us, to live it out, we also need to heed St. Paul, especially in our day and age: “See to it that no one captivate you with an empty, seductive philosophy according to human tradition, according to the elemental powers of the world and not according to Christ.” [Col.2:8]

“Called to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, "the true light that enlightens everyone" (Jn 1:9), people become "light in the Lord" and "children of light" (Eph 5:8), and are made holy by "obedience to the truth" (1 Pet 1:22). This obedience is not always easy. As a result of that mysterious original sin, committed at the prompting of Satan, the one who is "a liar and the father of lies" (Jn 8:44), man is constantly tempted to turn his gaze away from the living and true God in order to direct it towards idols (cf. 1 Thes 1:9), exchanging "the truth about God for a lie" (Rom 1:25). Man's capacity to know the truth is also darkened, and his will to submit to it is weakened. Thus, giving himself over to relativism and scepticism (cf. Jn 18:38), he goes off in search of an illusory freedom apart from truth itself……. No one can escape from the fundamental questions: What must I do? How do I distinguish good from evil? The answer is only possible thanks to the splendour of the truth which shines forth deep within the human spirit, as the Psalmist bears witness: "There are many who say: 'O that we might see some good! Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord' " (Ps 4:6). The light of God's face shines in all its beauty on the countenance of Jesus Christ, "the image of the invisible God" (Col 1:15), the "reflection of God's glory" (Heb 1:3), "full of grace and truth" (Jn 1:14). Christ is "the way, and the truth, and the life" (Jn 14:6). Consequently the decisive answer to every one of man's questions, his religious and moral questions in particular, is given by Jesus Christ, or rather is Jesus Christ himself…..” [from the encyclical of St. John Paul: The Splendour of Truth]

“A misguided anthropocentrism leads to a misguided lifestyle. In the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, I noted that the practical relativism typical of our age is “even more dangerous than doctrinal relativism”. When human beings place themselves at the centre, they give absolute priority to immediate convenience and all else becomes relative. Hence we should not be surprised to find, in conjunction with the omnipresent technocratic paradigm and the cult of unlimited human power, the rise of a relativism which sees everything as irrelevant unless it serves one’s own immediate interests.” [excerpted from Laudatio Si by Pope Francis]

“How many winds of doctrine we have known in these last decades, how many ideological currents, how many fashions of thought? The small boat of thought of many Christians has often remained agitated by the waves, tossed from one extreme to the other: from Marxism to liberalism, to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism, etc…..Every day new sects are born and we see realized what St. Paul says on the deception of men, on the cunning that tends to lead into error (cf. Ephesians 4:14). To have a clear faith, according to the creed of the Church, is often labeled as fundamentalism. While relativism, that is, allowing oneself to be carried about with every wind of “doctrine,” seems to be the only attitude that is fashionable. A dictatorship of relativism is being constituted that recognizes nothing as absolute and which only leaves the “I” and its whims as the ultimate measure.” [excerpted from then Cardinal Ratzinger’s homily at the opening of the conclave which elected him as pope, now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI]



  















  










Monday, October 16, 2017

SHARDS OF GLASS


                                                                


I close my eyes, to shut out the images,

the noise, of the culture of darkness and

death and once deep inside my soul

allow my heart to travel the world,

neither time, distance, nor heat of day, or cold of night,

inhibits the heart from traveling.

Eyes wide open, ears attentive, seeking, seeing,

listening, I arrive in a huge city, filled with

minarets,

while hot desert winds blasts sand against my face, as though

a legion of furies is afoot.

I looked towards those towers, hear the call to prayer,

sounding like a howl, a howl of millennia voices,

seeking God, yet aware of loss of Christ.

Walking through crowded bazars, down alleys,

hearing explosions as various sects slaughter-bomb each other,

the cries of mothers overpowering all other sounds,

the ocean of their tears turning sand to earth,

as their tears become within my heart as

shards of glass.

My prayer O Jesus that You

reveal Yourself to them, comfort them for they are

huddled before You like the women who cried out

to You at Your eighth station on the via dolorosa.



Whirl of prayer wheels, clinking of thumb cymbals,

sound of bells, air heavy with incense and dampness

permeates my body, high amongst mountain clouds,

my unshod feet sense the cold of stone hallways as

towards me on the air comes the relentless guttural

chant of robed monks, seated amongst huge statues of

Buddha and dragons.

My cheeks wet with tears, my soul trembles, as in this

place of angry, dark spirits I feel the pain of unrequited

yearning, see You bent over, weeping with Your longing to shatter the darkness,

to illumine these hearts.

I embrace another onslaught of shards of glass,

for unknowing yet knowing,

they seek Your pierced open heart, gateway to love and mercy.

How I yearn my own heart, for all who cry, who seek,

be opened as passageway to You.



There is no tiredness, no hunger, no thirst, save a participation

in Your sitio, when heart-traveling.

No sense of passage of time,

rather wonderment and, be there any burden, it is the bearing of

burdens weighing upon those we see, hear, meet,



Suddenly, it is heat and humidity of amazon jungle depths,

amongst a people so isolated there is no awareness of You or

of others, persons like themselves,

but there is a hunger, deep-relentless-hunger, for within

each man, woman, child, longing for the True Bread, seeking for

a guiding star, such that each time a newborn is gazed upon

tears of longing flow, for some how they know that this is not yet

the expected Child – and these tear-shards are luminous and enter

my heart as gift.



There are places hidden from public view and media scrutiny,

peopled with millions of our brothers and sisters, men, women,

children.

They have names soaked in blood, hatred and despair: gulag,

death camps, labour camps, concentration camps, refugee

camps, prisons: max, super-max, minimum, or the seemingly

less harsh: jails.

Other such places of suffering have names supposedly to

assure ourselves the suffering are not forgotten: homeless shelters,

soup kitchens, emergency shelters for the battered and abused,

hospices, hospitals of all varieties, nursing homes – yet,

yet, in all these places, move dark shadow-spirits of fear, loneliness,

and death.

There are too dark alleys and steam grates, tents among the thick

trees of city parks,

I must walk within all these places, must smell the smells, hear the screams,

gather the tears – for human tears, like Christ’s, are the most

precious droplets of water upon the earth – for tears flow as sadness, as

cry that someone might hear me, see me, and tears sometimes flow as

joy for a human being has been born, a love offered, a dawn unfolds,

snow caresses the cheeks of laughing humans skiing, snowboarding,

watching a child gamble about – but the places I am in now are places of

pain’s tears while echoes within these places, as from the depths

of a spatial black hole, a voice hateful and harsh, angry

because the darkness spews forth with each word – for

satan is the bearer of despair and cannot choose blindness for the

brightness of Christ dwelling within all who suffer, are wounded,

alone, shreds all darkness,

yet the voice is that of a Dostoyevskyian Grand Inquisitor,

demanding Christ leave, abandon the very ones He so loves,

loves so every tear is His, every pain is His, and must be for me.



I touch the shards of glass that have so filled my heart it

is as if my heart is made of glass – become a prism -

of His light that ever more,

as I go where human beings are,

wherever human beings are,

His Light will shatter the darkness,

restore life, wipe away all tears.

For now, a rest from the journey that

at His altar lifting the paten there be a

place within the bread for everyone who has

no place, lifting the chalice that all blood shed,

every tear wept, be comingled therein with

the wine,

and once I have spoke His words and Bread,

Wine become Him and I am nourished,

my heart has room for more shards and

the journey begins anew.

Alleluia!














Monday, September 04, 2017

DUNKIRK: A MEDITATION


                                                       

Long before the film, Dunkirk, was even released my son said we should go see it, so a day was set, once the release date was advertised.

Then weeks went by as family obligations, his client obligations, kept the plans about the movie being delayed.

Then it was his annual father and his sons’ week camping in the mountains. I knew he and my grandsons would be back late on a Friday evening, so did not expect we would see the film for some time yet, as no doubt he would be rather worn out after the trip.

Well, bless him, my son phoned on his cell once they were far enough down from the mountains for the call to get through and set things for Saturday after a brunch together.

Dunkirk is called a film but it should rightly be called an epic.

In one of the closing scenes in the film THE QUEEN, we hear the Queen say: “Duty first, self second. That is the way I was brought up. That is all I have ever known.”

Following Jesus’ teaching for we Christians there is more than duty, there is choice: God first, my brothers-my sisters second, I am third.

Jesus tells us: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends.” [Jn.15:13].

We all love dramatic hero stories, starting with Christ Himself, where the one who makes the self-gift to other pays the ultimate price, as have done through the centuries the martyrs, such as St. Maxmilian Kolbe, and then, representing the whole spectrum of humanity, those on the front line: the military, the police, the firefighters who often within the daily laying down of their lives also pay the ultimate price for us.

This self-gift is not shown the way we might expect in this ‘war’ film.

While this is a film rooted in an event in a war, it is much more a film about human beings trapped in time and place, in unrelenting uncertainty, where some do lay down their lives to the death, yet most are simply trying to get out of the trap they are in, to survive.

Because my son not only treated me to the movie but to a nice brunch beforehand, followed by a stroll and a chat, when we got to the theater neither of us wanted the usual popcorn and drinks or candy.

It was only a few minutes into the film when I realized what a distraction from taking in any film munching away is.

Granted given the low calibre of 99% of films, munching is almost a necessity, when taking in an epic best not to be distracted.

There are two verses from John Dryden’s poem: Wounded But Not Slain, that kept coming to mind after taking in the film.

I use deliberately the expression ‘taking in’ because while we might view/watch most films, this Dunkirk epic must be taken in because it is a lesson our so angry, hate filled, violent, at enmity with one another human family needs to learn.

From Dryden:

I’m wounded now, but I’m not slain

I’m bruised and faint they say

Just let me lie and bleed awhile;

I’ll not be long this way……………

………..I’ll bind these wounds; I’ll dry these tears;

I’ll close this bleeding vein;

I’ll not lie here and weep and die;

I’ll rise and fight again.

The exhausted thousands shown on the beach, are more than just background for the few characters who are fleshed out somewhat – not with long minutes of dialogue, for any of the characters zeroed in on to reveal the terror of the unfolding evacuation use words sparingly, as if each word were one of a few remaining cartridges for weapons no longer of much use.

The thousands are, in many ways than just from the bleeding holes in their bodies, ‘wounded but not slain’.

They, like those manning the small boats, are ordinary human beings.

Like most of us a mixture of strength and weakness, courage and fear, generosity and selfishness.

Which of those dominates has as much to do with our early life formation as the immediate situation which confronts us and, unless we are alone like deep in the bush confronted by a wolf, how we choose to act, with courage or cowardice, is often determined by the mood and choices, the behaviour of those around us.

True courage is not the absence of fear.

Fear is a type of life preserver.

True courage is acting selflessly, laying down our lives, frightened as we may be, for the other.

Cowardice is not so much a lack of character as it is being overwhelmed by the interior tsunami of fear.

We see all of that, have the chance to take in all of that and more when focused on the unfolding of Dunkirk.

In his poem SONG OF THE INEXHAUSTIBLE SUN, St. John Paul states: Can I ever repay my gratitude to the sea whose quiet waves come out to seek me as I am led astray, day after day?

Once you view the film the power of the Saint’s words will penetrate.

Since discussing the film after we had viewed it, and reflecting on what my son said flowing from the film, a few final points about how it is a teachable film for the current situation[s] the human family is confronting, for today in many ways we are surrounded by an unseen enemy, trapped between what was and cannot be returned to, and the far shore of where we yearn to be.

In a real sense, like the enemy beyond the dunes of Dunkirk, North Korea and its ever more dangerous nuclear-war threat, ISIS and assorted Islamic terrorists, or wildfires smoldering deep in the forest, hurricanes forming thousands of kilometers away, what threatens us often is experienced before being seen.

What we do see in the first instance is the violent hatred of Islamists when ordinary, innocent people, men, women, children are slaughtered in the streets; suddenly what was smouldering has become a conflagration consuming homes, businesses or destructive winds are raging, waters rising, devouring everything in their paths.

This is when, in far greater numbers than soldiers on a Dunkirk beach, or first responders in our communities, are surpassed in number by the ordinary, yet extra-ordinary, choice of courage and selflessness of human beings who choose to lay down their lives and rescue, shelter, tend to the needs of others.

“Action speaks louder than words” is a truism precisely because it is true.

North Korea and Islamists spew hate and no amount of chatter will overcome such diabolical hatred.

Love is stronger – not ‘love’ words, as important as they may be – love is stronger when it is active.

Most of our heroes are hidden love actors: moms and dads caring for their children, the men and women who keep the lights on, the water drinkable, the grocery stores stocked, the streets clean, keeping vigil with the alone throughout a hospice night and countless others who only become visible when the bombs go off or vans are driven into a crowd, or flames lick at the door or the waters rise, or the call goes out for little boats to venture forth towards a far away beach.

When stressed by wars and rumors of wars, by anything that is moving towards us as a threat, we have a choice to make: we can turn towards the dunes, behind which the enemy is advancing, unseen save for the dead and wounded around us, give into inaction, despair, or we can look towards the horizon, trusting our neighbours, our brothers and sisters are on their way to rescue us.



More, the critical choice for each of us to make, who are not among the wounded on whatever beach it is: will we be love in action, go forth even to laying down our lives or will we sit on our own version of Dover cliffs and just watch?







  

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

THE CLUTURE OF BLAMING AND DISPUTED QUESTIONS=PART 2



                                   CHARLOTTESVILLE: INTO THE ABYSS
What has happened, is happening in Charlottesville, seen repeatedly on newscasts around the globe and burning its way through Twitter is tantamount to that old saying: “Two wrongs do not make a right.”
More and more governments, pandering to the culture of blame, when it comes to monuments or building names, seeking to appease aggrieved groups constantly demanding a re-dress, often a re-write of history, are fuelling anger and hatred by those who feel they are endlessly blamed for the sins of past generations and see, legitimately, no end to the demands for re-dress.
Racism, hatred, these are anathema to the Gospel, contradict Christianity, have caused rivers of blood to flow, especially in the past century.
Yet there is a scary mirror image of removal of statues and place names, not just in the USA, increasingly in Canada as well, and ISIS and the Taliban blowing up, destroying monuments they deemed unacceptable to their beliefs.
When governments, usually of the left, seek to appease the blamers by acts such as destruction of monuments, removal of names from buildings and other places you begin to wonder not only where will it end, but what about those equally guilty of historical malfeasance, whose memory the left dare not mess with?
Such as: George Washington who was a slave owner or Louis Riel who was a rebel and a murderer?
We cannot change the past and whitewashing history through acts of destruction satisfies no one and only adds fuel to the fire.
Human history is complex because human beings are complex.
Seeking to re-dress, for example, events of the 19th century by applying 21st century appreciation of human rights is not only a fool’s errand and disingenuous but is the coward’s way to avoid the tough work: dialogue, with attentive respect to the notions and feelings of other and the tireless dedication to the hard work of walking together, with patience, understanding, compassion, the genuine road of reconciliation.
When both the right and the left seek by any means to silence the other there is no dialogue, only the evil of oppression and free speech be dammed.
When both the left and the right, in the various ways, seek to re-write or deny the rawness of history that guarantees that history will repeat itself.
Examples of the latter are the unending divisions within Christianity, the unending divide between Israelis and Palestinians, and yes, the racial divisions in the US, Canada and around the world.
In this climate of anger and blame, of chosen deafness to the pain and confusion, the anxiety and frustration increasingly more and more people experience daily, we need to, as people of faith from every religion, pray for the grace to all take a deep breath, calm down, take a hiatus both from blaming and reflexively giving into irrational demands for a re-structuring of history.
During the hiatus from blaming we need to, with mutual respect and attentiveness, begin to re-discovery what we, white and non-white, Catholic and non-Catholic, male and female, young and old, rich and poor, strong and weak, hopeful and discouraged have in common.
We might begin with a few realities: we are all children of the One True God, whether we know Him or not, we all breathe the same air, we all have blood of the same colour, we all can communicate, though this latter requires a willingness, whether we like or do not agree with what we might hear, to listening without interrupting or seeking to silence other.
Unless we begin again and end this ceaselessly angry blaming, by both sides, of the other, we will rip our nations apart.
Civil wars are never civil.
That is a misnomer.
They are fratricide wars.
After the bloody fratricidal wars in both England and Spain, in both cases ostensibly to remove the monarchy, both nations now have constitutional monarchs.
Clearly the fratricidal war in the US between the north and the south remains an unhealed wound.
Words of anger and hatred, of us versus them, as labels, wound hearts and invariably precede the use of weapons which wound bodies, which kill.
Words matter, words have power, words can be vessels of peace or vessels of war, chalices of love or goblets of hate.
We must choose which words, what our hearts commit to, what we will work for before it is too late.
Like the ancient story of the blind men and the elephant, who never having encountered an elephant, when they do, each only touches a part of the beast and from that one touch assumes to have an idea of the entire creature, yet when, based on their limited experience, assert unequivocally theirs is the right description, each becomes suspect to the others who assume, since “I” am right the others must be untruthful.
The result is they begin beating each other.
The moral of the story is clear: as humans, we tend to assume we have the whole truth and others are ignorant of the truth because their version is not like ours.
It is the tendency to be subjective.
To be objective and know actual truth means having an open and listening mind and heart, attentive and welcoming of what aspects of the truth of the thing the other can offer, but which we have not yet discovered.
Unless we stop blaming and screaming at each other, all of us will become blind, wandering in darkness, bumping into each other, recoiling in the utter terror of vulnerability to whomever, or whatever, shall overpower us with murderous rage, falling into the cold, dark abyss, where we will be so far removed from Christ we no longer recognize our very self, nor other as person, as my brother and sister.