Thursday, January 17, 2019

LIVING IN THE NEW REALITY OF WAR - PART 6


                                   

                               A TEMPLATE FOR HOLINESS, HOPE, PRESEVERANCE

Our vocation, through Baptism, as faithful disciples and soldiers of Christ, in the heart of the world, within the human family, in the heart of the Church, is to be love. [cf. Jn.13:34; 15: 12-14; 1 Thess. 4:9; 1 Jn.2:7-10; 3:23; 2 Jn. 1:5-6]

An Indigenous elder speaks gently to his grandson: “There are two wolves inside everyone which are always at war with each other. One of them is a good wolf and represents things like kindness, bravery and love. The other is a bad wolf and represents things like greed, hatred and fear. The grandson stops to think about this for awhile, then he looks up and asks: “Grandfather, which wolf wins the war?” The grandfather quietly replies: “The one that you feed.”  [1]

While it is easy to assume the enemies of faithful disciples of Christ constantly feed the bad wolf, we need to be humble enough, honest enough with ourselves about which wolf we are feeding.

We may fall into satan’s trap of suggesting we can get away with just giving the bad wolf tidbits, rather than a full meal. The danger is the bad wolf, like satan his mentor does when we give into any temptation, becomes more aggressively demanding and fear can cause us to abandon caring for the good wolf and just feeding the bad one.

We need to be nourished with the sacraments, reflecting upon Sacred Scripture with priority to the Gospel, with the Holy Rosary and other times of prayer, using sacramentals, reading the lives of the saints and their writing, in a word being nourished through all such means by the grace of the Holy Spirit.

Some, rightly, will challenge the above and note that in the lives of the saints we see that even when they were totally faithful to the will of God in the present moment, even when they were filled with faith, lived truly holy lives – or perhaps because of their very fidelity – suffering was seemingly never absent, rejection, persecution, sometimes even the profound pain of the dark night of the soul, the profound absence of God, all this they experienced as we do.

There is no quick fix, no magic elixir, nothing that exempts faithful followers of Christ from the Cross, however we can trust that the will of God, always an invitation never an imposition, only takes us/invites us, where His grace will sustain us.

We are mistaken to understand love as primarily or only a feeling, likewise with faith, hope, forgiveness of self and others.

Pure, true love is an act of the will, a choice expressed in words and actions, so are faith, hope, charity, kindness, patience, etc., and when such virtues are lived out when the night is at its darkest, the burden-bearing of the actions of others at its heaviest, when the enemy and his human cohorts are most fiercely attacking, that is when the choice to love, to believe, to endure, to be faithful in the precise moment we are living, is truly to be living holiness, radiating the Light of Christ.

We should rejoice in and be comforted by the very fact we are living in these times because the Trinity granting, us life and grace in these times, shows the love and confidence God has in us to be His faithful disciples and witnesses in these very days.

Pope Francis, who understands very well the reality we are living in has given us a wonderful pastoral gift of encouragement, his call to holiness in the modern world: “REJOICE AND BE GLAD” (Mt 5:12), Jesus tells those persecuted or humiliated for his sake. The Lord asks everything of us, and in return he offers us true life, the happiness for which we were created. He wants us to be saints and not to settle for a bland and mediocre existence. The call to holiness is present in various ways from the very first pages of the Bible. We see it expressed in the Lord’s words to Abraham: “Walk before me, and be blameless” (Gen 17:1)…… The Holy Spirit bestows holiness in abundance among God’s holy and faithful people, for “it has pleased God to make men and women holy and to save them, not as individuals without any bond between them, but rather as a people who might acknowledge him in truth and serve him in holiness”….. Let the grace of your baptism bear fruit in a path of holiness. Let everything be open to God; turn to him in every situation. Do not be dismayed, for the power of the Holy Spirit enables you to do this, and holiness, in the end, is the fruit of the Holy Spirit in your life (cf. Gal 5:22-23). When you feel the temptation to dwell on your own weakness, raise your eyes to Christ crucified and say: “Lord, I am a poor sinner, but you can work the miracle of making me a little bit better”. In the Church, holy yet made up of sinners, you will find everything you need to grow towards holiness. The Lord has bestowed on the Church the gifts of scripture, the sacraments, holy places, living communities, the witness of the saints and a multifaceted beauty that proceeds from God’s love, “like a bride bedecked with jewels” (Is 61:10)…… At times, life presents great challenges. Through them, the Lord calls us anew to a conversion that can make his grace more evident in our lives, “in order that we may share his holiness” (Heb 12:10). At other times, we need only find a more perfect way of doing what we are already doing: “There are inspirations that tend solely to perfect in an extraordinary way the ordinary things we do in life”. When Cardinal François-Xavier Nguyên van Thuân was imprisoned, he refused to waste time waiting for the day he would be set free. Instead, he chose “to live the present moment, filling it to the brim with love”. He decided: “I will seize the occasions that present themselves every day; I will accomplish ordinary actions in an extraordinary way”……. I would like these reflections to be crowned by Mary, because she lived the Beatitudes of Jesus as none other. She is that woman who rejoiced in the presence of God, who treasured everything in her heart, and who let herself be pierced by the sword. Mary is the saint among the saints, blessed above all others. She teaches us the way of holiness and she walks ever at our side. She does not let us remain fallen and at times she takes us into her arms without judging us. Our converse with her consoles, frees and sanctifies us. Mary our Mother does not need a flood of words. She does not need us to tell her what is happening in our lives. All we need do is whisper, time and time again: “Hail Mary…”



[1] An ancient Cree Legend quoted by Ken LaPointe in: Rouleauville, The Cradle of Calgary, © 2008-2018 by Ken LaPointe and (BVC)

[2] On The Call To Holiness in Today’s World: paras 6, 15, 17, 176: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20180319_gaudete-et-exsultate.html



© 2019 Fr. Arthur Joseph


Thursday, January 10, 2019

LIVING IN THE NEW REALITY OF WAR – PART 5


                                       

                         BEING GOOD SOLDIERS OF CHRIST, AS LIVING ICONS OF TRUTH



So you, my child, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And what you heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will have the ability to teach others as well. Bear your share of hardship along with me like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. To satisfy the one who recruited him, a soldier does not become entangled in the business affairs of life. [2Tim.2-4]

Soldiers, like all military personnel, are sworn to protect the people, to do battle against the enemy, even to laying down their lives.

These words of St. Paul are applicable in our own day. He is not calling us to be soldiers in terms of methods used by the military to defeat an enemy, for example the use of lethal force. He is calling us to fidelity to our baptismal oath, fidelity to the Gospel of Christ, the Gospel of Life and Truth, fidelity to our vocation within and flowing from our baptismal vocation to be proclaimers of the Gospel with our lives without compromise while living within this world, this culture.

Being a good soldier means trusting and living out this from Christ’s prayer to His Father at the last supper: I speak this in the world so that they may share My joy completely. I gave them Your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. [Jn.17:13 ff.]

People often say how overwhelmed they feel under the weight of this culture of darkness and death. To borrow a military phrase, we all are suffering “battle fatigue.”

Not least because: Our enemies are trying to wipe us off the face of the earth, literally. Our enemies are not at the gates; they are inside the gates. The enemies of Christianity are trying to ensure that Christianity has no future. [1]

A major cause of battle fatigue is the very human, and understandable, need for acceptance by others, added to which for some Catholics and other Christians, there is a persistent mythology that in ages past we were not only accepted but admired, even dominant.

There are a few crumbs of truth in that mythology, but just a few. Martyrdom, by blood, oppression, rejection, is more normative than acceptance and dominance.

All Christ’s teachings on the Church are teachings about the power of littleness: the mustard seed, the leaven, a cup of water, salt, light, ordinary acts of charity such as giving food to someone who is hungry, the grain of wheat: [cf. Mt. 5:13-16; 10:42; 13: 31ff; 25:31ff; Jn. 12:24]

If we do seek to live lives of faith, hope, love, peace, active charity, with a sense of fulfillment, as both good soldiers of Christ and a bulwark against the culture of darkness and death it means taking up our cross each day, following Christ and as St. Paul teaches, we are called to make up in our lives: …. what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of His body, which is the church…[Col. 1:24], the ‘what is lacking’ is our willingness to take up the Cross each day, follow Jesus, be in every moment one with Him.

What makes this difficult is what we take in from the surrounding culture of darkness and death through various media, the music we listen to, the books we read, etc.

Garbage in, garbage out.

We have the treasuries of Sacred Scripture, access to Holy Mass, Holy Communion, Confession, adoration, the assistance of Our Lady, the Angels, to music, art, literature which uplifts.

Beauty in, beauty out.

It is our choice.

Do we take in what vivifies or what wearies?

A human tendency which satan uses to disrupt and discourage is having us look back at some point in history, in the life of the Church, the nation, our family, our own lives through frankly, as the saying goes, ‘rose coloured glasses.’

Instead of dwelling fully in the present moment, which is the precise moment in our lives where Christ is with us, we pine for some other moment, or regret, without trust in Divine Mercy, some previous moment.

What a waste of time and grace!

Our sanctification, our deepening our union with Christ, fulfilling our vocation, accomplishing the will of God in our lives, defeating satan, the real enemy in this reality of war, proclaiming the Gospel of Truth and Life with our lives, takes place in, and only in, this precise moment.

This precise moment is both a sacred place and a threshold place. We step deeply into this moment from the previous moment and this moment is simultaneously a threshold into the next moment of grace.

Jesus said, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.” [Lk.9:62]

From the moment of His Incarnation, through His birth, childhood, adulthood, public life, through the desert, the garden, on the Cross, in the tomb, in His Holy Resurrection, to this very moment Christ never looked back, never sought to somehow go back in time for any reason, rather He dwelt in and fulfilled the will of the Father for our redemption and to be with us in this precise moment.

He is the Good Shepherd leading us through every moment to the eternal moment, the unchanging yet for all eternity ever deepening moment of communion of love with Him, the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Remember the word I spoke to you, ‘No slave is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will also keep yours. [Jn.15:20]

Beloved, I urge you as aliens and sojourners to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against the soul. Beloved, do not be surprised that a trial by fire is occurring among you, as if something strange were happening to you. But rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when His glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings. The God of all grace who called you to His eternal glory through Christ Jesus will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you after you have suffered a little. To Him be dominion forever. Amen. [cf. 1Pt.2:11; 4:12-14; 5:8-11]

We belong to God, and anyone who knows God listens to us, while anyone who does not belong to God refuses to hear us. This is how we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of deceit. [cf. 1Jn.4:1-6]

Paul Evdokimov reminds us of an adage which affirms: “The hour that you are living, the task that you are doing, the man whom you are meeting in this moment, are the most important in your life.”

The greater reality than the reality of the war we experience is that Christ Himself is already our victory, that greater than all the noise and hatred is the deep silence of God, which is the sound of His loving voice.

We dwell in moments of grace.





[1] The Biggest Lie In the History Of Christianity, Matthew Kelly, p.61; Kakadu, LLC, 2018

[2] The Struggle With God, Paul Evdokimov, p.213, The Paulist Press 1966



© 2019 Fr. Arthur Joseph


Sunday, December 23, 2018

LIVING IN THE NEW REALITY OF WAR - PART 4


                                     

                                         WAR AGAINST AND WITHIN THE CHURCH

                                 
                                   AGE OF MARTYRS, AGE OF WITNESS, AGE OF HOPE



It is the week of the O Antiphons prayed during Vespers: O Dawn, splendour of eternal light, and sun of justice, come, and shine on those seated in darkness, and in the shadow of death.

In this new reality of war, we do well to keep before our hearts that He who is our Light pierces the darkness and He is the light the darkness cannot overcome.

I remember reciting the phrase about mourning and weeping in this valley of tears in the Hail, Holy Queen, a prayer I said often when I was growing up, and being aware at the time of the immense suffering in the world. Perhaps it was because I was a child during World War II or because the church talked more about suffering or because we didn’t have a lot of money. There was a realization that heaven waited up there, that life here was not meant to be soft and easy. [1]

For centuries, our Jewish Brothers and Sisters, when ascending to the temple in Jerusalem would sing-pray a series of Psalms: 119[120] to 133 [134], still known as the psalms of ascent.  They are powerful prayers for whenever we experience the weight of being deep in any valley of darkness, tears, fear. It is good to, at the same time, pray Psalms 134 [135]/135 [136], which are known as Alleluia psalms.

It is to experience, in this reality of war in all its visible and invisible dimensions, what Pope Emeritus Benedict teaches about faith at the end of the Lenten Retreat for the Curia in 2013: Faith is nothing other than the touch of God’s hand in the night of the world, and so – in the silence – to hear the word, to see love. [2]

This being the Holy Season of Advent, the season of hope, on the threshold of the birth of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus, we should turn to teachings that give hope, encouragement, strengthen faith, openness to absolute trust: in hoc signo vinces, that is, literally ‘in this sign you will conquer’. Our victory is found in Christ, Christ on the Cross, Christ Risen, and no enemy, visible or invisible, can overcome He who is in our midst in this moment as surely as when He first walked the earth two millennia ago: Christ is living now! He is teaching now, governing now, sanctifying now….[3]

The first step in participating in Christ’s victory over the enemy, for there is only one enemy: satan -  all human enemies are but those who do the evil one’s work -  is to be grateful for the gift of our being, at this precise moment in history, for our Loving and All merciful God, Father, Son, Holy Spirit, creates us, gives of breath of life at the time in human history, which is salvation history, when all grace is available, should we chose, for us to become saints, and saints is what the human family needs, millions of Christ Light Bearers in the darkness, millions of living, active, icons of His love.

1. “REJOICE AND BE GLAD” (Mt 5:12), Jesus tells those persecuted or humiliated for His sake. The Lord asks everything of us, and in return He offers us true life, the happiness for which we were created. He wants us to be saints and not to settle for a bland and mediocre existence…. 15. Let the grace of your baptism bear fruit in a path of holiness. Let everything be open to God; turn to Him in every situation. Do not be dismayed, for the power of the Holy Spirit enables you to do this, and holiness, in the end, is the fruit of the Holy Spirit in your life (cf. Gal 5:22-23)…... 16. This holiness to which the Lord calls you will grow through small gestures. [4]

Evil always goes for the grand gesture.

Jesus comes as a small child, not a great potentate; Jesus tells us it is the little things we do with love, which are done for Him, which lead to eternal life. [Mt. 25: 31-46].

Even the secular entertainment world cannot ignore the truth about the power of little things done well for love of Jesus: Galadriel: Mithrandir? Why the Halfling? Gandalf: I don’t know. Saruman believes it is only great power than can hold evil in check. But that is not what I have found. I’ve found it is the small things, everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keeps the darkness at bay. Simple acts of kindness and love. [5]

Faith is nothing other than the touch of God’s hand in the night of the world, and so – in the silence – to hear the word, to see love. [6]

In this 21st century technology, for all the benefits, is nonetheless the enemy of silence. Between cell phones and earbuds, people around the world choose to flee silence and fill their ears and brains, penetrating heart and soul, with an invasive continuum of noise. People resist turning off, even just for a few minutes, the cell phone, the music, internet, tv, as if there is a pervasive fear of silence.

Yet, drawing on Pope Emeritus Benedict’s wisdom, unless we be still, unless we embrace, at least for a few minutes the sacred gift of silence, how can we possibly hear the Word Himself, see Love Himself?

Contemplation is a gaze of faith, fixed on Jesus. "I look at him and he looks at me":….Contemplative prayer is hearing the Word of God. ….Contemplative prayer is silence, the "symbol of the world to come" or "silent love." Words in this kind of prayer are not speeches; they are like kindling that feeds the fire of love. In this silence, unbearable to the "outer" man, the Father speaks to us his incarnate Word, who suffered, died, and rose; in this silence the Spirit of adoption enables us to share in the prayer of Jesus. [7]

In this new reality of war, with battles against forces both visible and invisible, the cacophony of noise prevents us both from hearing the Word, seeing Love, and hearing the approach of the enemy. This refusal to be still, to listen, fundamentally is the sin of pride: The heart of man seeks for solutions to his problems until no solutions are left. Then he discovers that the “I” in a sense must disappear, become totally identified with Christ in His silent service to mankind. Yes, there are many silent steps to take before one comes to the door of total identification. But when you arrive there, your heart, like those of the martyrs, will receive a new burst of love, the impulse of a heart which is finally united with the Beloved. [8]

Deep in the stillness of the night, from a cave near a small town in an occupied country under the boot of a foreign power, came the cry of a newborn.

The Infant, the so long promised, desired one, God Himself, Word of God, Light to shatter the darkness, the Redeemer, He who humbled Himself, not clinging to His divinity but becoming a human being, in the silence of the night we experience the touch of God, hear the Word, see love.

The cry of this newborn Child, this Holy Child is announcement to the Father that ‘I have come to do Your will’; it is a prayer encompassing every cry of every human being from birth to last breath; it is a declaration to satan and his minions the war has begun; it is an assurance to each of us we are not in the battle alone.

His cry is taken up by the Angels announcing His birth to the ambassadors of humanity: poor working people, shepherds, after Mary and Joseph, the first human beings to adore, in silence, this Child who smiles and whose smile holds the secret of everlasting life. [9]

This Child, who seeks a room in the inn of every human heart, should we make room for Him, this Child is our hope, He is our victory, our strength and consolation, the binder up of wounds, the forgiver of sins, He is.

Yes, just that brilliantly luminously clear: HE IS!



[1] from: https://www.americamagazine.org/issue/400/faith-focus/god-present-valley-tears

[2] Benedict XVI, Last Testament, flyleaf, Bloomsbury, paperback 2017

[3] Life of Christ, Fulton J. Sheen, p. 446, An Image Book, 1990

[4] Pope Francis: Apostolic Exhortation, on the call to holiness in the modern world: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20180319_gaudete-et-exsultate.html

[5] The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey, 2012 film: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0903624/

[6] Pope Emeritus Benedict, op. cit.

[7] Catechism of the Catholic Church #’s 2715-2717

[8] MOLCHANIE The Silence of God: p. 77; Catherine De Hueck Doherty, 1982 The Crossroad Publishing Company

[9] Circling The Sun, Meditations on Christ in Liturgy and Time, p. 25; Robert D. Pelton; The Pastoral Press, 1986

© Fr. Arthur Joseph, 2018






Friday, December 07, 2018

LIVING IN THE NEW REALITY OF WAR - PART 3


                                    WAR AGAINST AND WITHIN THE CHURCH



Since 1963 on the BBC, and seen in countries around the world, the science fiction series Dr. Who has the main character travel through time and space in a TARDIS.

The TARDIS is smaller in its exterior than in its interior, which appears to be an expanse of a seemingly infinite numbers of rooms and other spaces.

An apt symbol of the Church, for mostly people see the small, limited exterior: the particular building in which we worship, the various church institutions, religious orders, etc., rarely entering the infinite expanse of the Church, to which we can apply that which Jesus says of His Father’s house, our heavenly dwelling place: My Father's house has many rooms…[Jn.14:2].

Various things such as a hurricane, a fire, a bomb can destroy a church building, while a dearth of vocations to the priesthood, Christ centered marriages and families leads to diminished participation in Holy Mass, leading to the closing of parishes.

The sins, past and present of popes, bishops, priests, religious, laity can, have, do, likely will, wound the exterior reality of the Church.

Thus, it is vital, when reflecting upon the war against and within the Church we keep within and before our hearts: …the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. [Mt.16:18].

That as Christians we suffer, like Jesus, in union with Him, should come as no surprise, nor cause us to have anger or lack of compassion for those who persecute us in anyway: “But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for He makes His sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust”. [Mt. 5:44] {cf. also: Lk.6:28; Jn. 15: 18-20; Mt. 24: 1-36}

No Christian is persecuted alone.

 Jesus is with us: He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” He said, “Who are you, sir?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” [Acts 9:4-5]

It is not just within the human family in general, within individual families, nations, between nations, where anger, hatred, violence seem to predominate in our day. This is reality, this is the reality of war within the Catholic, Orthodox, Protectant Churches and between the Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants as well.

Because Christ welcomes sinful, wounded human beings as members of His Mystical Body the Church on earth it is a stark reality that the blemishes, the sins of the members splatter upon the face of the Church.

Thus aided and abetted by satan, there are those who, within and without the Church, are always on the lookout for reasons to disparage the Church, to reject Christ, to ignore the Gospel.

This stark reality is not new.

It has been part of the reality of the Church, both the reality of external persecution and internal divisions, since shortly after Pentecost!

By way of example: a reading of the Acts of the Apostles shows both internal sins and divisions, miracles and the transforming of lives through proclamation of the Gospel; the book of Revelations shows both a glorious future for the Church on earth and in heaven, and admonitions from the Holy Spirit about weakening of faith and other internal issues, words applicable in our own day; during the first nearly four centuries of the life of the Church while thousands of Christians were being martyred, thousands of men and women went into the deserts to lead lives of penance and prayer either as hermits or in community and thus came about, through these Fathers and Mothers of the Desert, the establishment of contemplative life which, more than two millennia later, still flourishes; persecution by intimidation draconian laws, and by blood continues also to our day, yet throughout the millennia we have also seen, and see in our own day with the formation of new religious orders and communities of consecrated lay faithful, to care for the sick, the poor, all those who come to the field hospital of the Church; we also have seen, from the Great Schism, to the Reformation and also a seemingly unending  procession of individuals ‘founding’ their own ‘churches’ that sadly millions of souls are cut off from the fullness of sacramental life, which only can exist, such as in Roman and Orthodox traditions, where Apostolic succession has not been broken.

Be it attempts by feudal lords or modern governments to hamper the Church, or evil regimes such as the Communists, Nazis, Islamic terrorists, to try and destroy the Church by martyring Christians, , no matter the seriousness of internal divisions or the sins of Her members, clergy and lay alike, the Church, because She is the Mystical Body of Christ on earth and is guided and constantly vivified by the Holy Spirit, experiences the truth that, as Tertullian said: The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church. Also animated by Holy Spirit the Church constantly embraces the grace of metanoia, conversion of heart.

She emerges from all persecutions and scandals, renewed and holier.

It is too easy, indeed a from of spiritual laziness, to excuse our own tepid faith, living out of the Gospel, or abandoning Catholic faith and praxis, by blaming the sins of others, clergy or lay.

Every personal sin wounds the entire body of Christ.

We cannot point the finger at anyone, for as Jesus challenges to self-assumed righteous seeking to have the woman caught in adultery stoned to death, who of us is pure enough to cast a stone at the Church, at anyone?

St. Benedict, founder of Western Monasticism, began something which established not just profound spiritual growth within Christianity but cultural foundations which led to the growth of villages, then towns, then cities, universities, hospitals, literature, science, art.

Rod Dreher, in this book THE BENEDICT OPTION, urges a re-discovery of this great treasury not simply by the Catholic Church but by all Christians, noting that: As our civilization seems to be going the way of the Roman empire, more Christians among its nations are asking themselves – and one another – how to be latter-day St. Benedicts who preserve the living faith that gave birth to our own civilization amid empire’s fall. They are awakening to and claiming the powerful truth conveyed in this saying: “Tradition is not the worship of ashes but the preservation of fire.” [2]



1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doctor_Who

2] cf. p. XIX, The Benedict Option, Rod Dreher, Sentinel 2018



© Fr. Arthur Joseph 2018


Wednesday, November 07, 2018

LIVING IN THE NEW REALITY OF WAR - PART 2


                                           

A powerful scene from the film version of The Lord of the Rings, the Two Towers, comes to mind as a metaphor for the war we are in, a war which is simultaneously visible and invisible, the invisible aspect being the more dangerous.

In the scene referred to, with the focus on King Theodon, as his aide dresses the king with armour, and the King begins his soliloquy, scenes of the advancing enemy and of the king’s people preparing for battle, alternate with the speech in which the most heart wrenching line is: “How did it come to this?” [1]

Given the extent of anger, hatred, violence, disorder, anguish, fear, increasing loss of hope within the human family, indeed, “How did it come to this?”

It has come to this, today and throughout history, because Adam and Eve listened to the evil one. It is all there in Genesis chapters 3-4.

We are all bearers of the wounds of original sin.

This is the origin of how, universally in the human family, it has come to this.

The late Greek philosopher and theologian, Paul Evdokimov, stresses, when it comes to human freedom, a gift willed by God for us, this freedom is at its most ‘titanic’ as the ‘power of refusing God’. He also stresses that “The hand extended towards Christ never remains empty” [2]

St. John Paul II teaches us that: The analysis of sin in its original dimension indicates that, through the influence of the "father of lies," throughout the history of humanity there will be a constant pressure on man to reject God, even to the point of hating him: "Love of self to the point of contempt for God," as St. Augustine puts it. Man will be inclined to see in God primarily a limitation of himself, and not the source of his own freedom and the fullness of good. [3]

When Pierre Manet asserts that the word for this reality in which we are now living is war [4], this is certainty accurate as connected to the revealed truth the enemy of God, the hater of Christ, the father of lies, is indeed at war with us, because he and his minions lost the original war, lost their attempt to destroy Our Lady and Her Holy Child Jesus: Rev.12.

The Catechism teaches the gravest of satan’s works is the seduction leading to our disobeying God: The power of Satan is, nonetheless, not infinite. He is only a creature, powerful from the fact that he is pure spirit, but still a creature. He cannot prevent the building up of God's reign. Although Satan may act in the world out of hatred for God and His kingdom in Christ Jesus, and although his action may cause grave injuries - of a spiritual nature and, indirectly, even of a physical nature - to each man and to society, the action is permitted by divine providence which with strength and gentleness guides human and cosmic history. It is a great mystery that providence should permit diabolical activity, but "we know that in everything God works for good with those who love Him." [5]

The armour King Theodon wears for the battle is as tissue paper compared to the armour we are vested with in Baptism: Finally, draw your strength from the Lord and from His mighty power. Put on the armour of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil.  For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. Therefore, put on the armour of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground. So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace. In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. With all prayer and supplication, pray at every opportunity in the Spirit. To that end, be watchful with all perseverance and supplication for all the holy ones….[Eph. 6: 10-18]

Another aspect of how it has come to this in our own day, within the human family, in our own lives, comes from how we choose to dialogue within our selves, the thoughts and images, the imaginings, we fill our minds with, all these setting the stage for emotions that often lead to external words and actions.

It is a salient truth that we become what we contemplate. Our primary contemplation should not be the self, nor any other human being for such contemplation inevitably leads to distorted notions of self and other. Rather the one we should contemplate is  our Divine Lord and God, the Divine Lover of whom we are the Beloved, by trusting Jesus’ word: “….the kingdom of God is within you.” [Lk.17:21]

A classic 16th century work, by Fr. Lorenzo Scupoli, titled UNSEEN WARFARE, eventually came to the attention of St. Nicodemus and St. Theophan the Recluse, who read and endorsed the work, assuring we have this important source for understanding the reality of the war we are engulfed in, and must do battle in: Self-love and high opinion of ourselves gives birth in us to yet another evil which does us grievous harm; namely, severe judgement and condemnation of our neighbours….This evil habit or vice, being born of pride, feeds and grows on pride; and in turn feeds pride and makes it grow…..[6]

To be in a church with stained glass windows, when the sunlight is pouring through those windows, is to be our selves permeated by the multi-coloured light and beauty. External darkness cannot penetrate any window if there is light within the church, home, any place.

We cannot see darkness. What we see is the absence of light.

If there is darkness within us it is because we have rejected the light of Christ within us and invited darkness, a.k.a satan, to take abode within our beings.

St. Evagrios the Solitary reminds us that: …all thoughts producing anger or desire in a way that is contrary to nature are caused by demons. [7] True enough, however these thoughts of darkness cannot penetrate us, nor displace the light within us unless we freely choose to become fixated on dark, evil, bent towards self thoughts rooted in pride and disdain for our brothers and sisters. The resulting dialogue with self becomes communication with satan, rather than conversation with the Holy Trinity. The resulting cacophony within us drowns out the voice of God, indeed it becomes ever more difficult to hear Jesus knocking at the door of our being, that He might have leave to enter and cleanse the temple of our being. If we refuse to recognize His knock at the door, refuse to welcome Him in to heal and restore us, then sooner or later, by word and deed, we will give external expression to all the arrogant hatred and violence within us.

If we ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten and teach us, He will help us see that we are, each of us, members of the one human family. Diverse of colour, language, religion.

It is the heart that helps us discover the common humanity that links us all…The free heart frees others. [8] Such a heart is offered to us by Jesus: Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. [Mt. 11:29] It is our baptismal vocation to be burden bearers for one another: Bear one another’s burdens, and so you will fulfill the law of Christ. [Gl. 6:2] …..we, though many, are one body in Christ and individually parts of one another. [Rm. 12:5]

The weight of the current reality-war, of so much anger, loss of faith, disruption, immorality, causing such pain within the human family, should not discourage us, not cause a loss of hope, for we are baptised into, live within Christ’s victory in His Passion, Death and Resurrection.

Let us recall that the way of human maturation is the course of love itself, which goes from receiving care to the capacity of offering care, from receiving life to the capacity of giving life.  To become adult men and women means to be able to live the spousal and parental attitude, which manifests itself in the various situations of life, such as the capacity to take on oneself the burden of another and to love him without ambiguity. Therefore, it’s a global attitude of the person that is able to assume the reality and is able to enter into a profound relationship with others. Who, then, is the adulterer, the lustful, the unfaithful one? It is an immature person, who has his life for himself and interprets situations on the basis of his own wellbeing and his own contentment. [Pope Francis Oct.31.18]

Two images of the power of one person, fictional admittedly, yet symbolic, and one person in ‘real life’, as the saying goes, stand as example of what we, in union with Christ, can accomplish: The first is Gandalf, standing on the stone bridge, confronting the creature from the deep, and declaring: “You shall not pass!” [9]  In his song-poem, Democracy, Leonard Cohen starts with: It’s coming through a hole in the air  From those nights in Tiananmen Square [10]…an event perhaps not remembered by many, but vivid still for those of us old enough to have watched it unfold, one man, standing in front of a column of tanks, no weapon other than his personhood, his whole being saying “You shall not pass.” [11]

 © 2018~Fr. Arthur Joseph

[1] Lord of the Rings the Two Towers film ~ 2002

[2] cf., The Struggle With God, Paul Evdokimov, Paulist Press, 1966

[3] DOMINUM ET VIVIFICANTEM, On The Holy Spirit in the Life of the Church and the World; Part II – The Spirit Who Convinces the World Concerning Sin; 3. The Witness Concerning the Beginning: the Original Reality of Sin, 38.2; St. John Paul, 1986, Our Sunday Visitor Publishing, 1996

[4] op. cit. Beyond Radical Secularism, Pierre Manet, St. Augustine’s Press, 2016


[6] cf. Unseen Warfare, p.197, St. Valdimir’s Seminary Press, 2000

[7] cf. The Philokalia, p. 19, Faber and Faber edition, 1979

[8] Becoming Human, p. 86; Jean Vanier, House of Anansi Press, 2008

[9] Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Rings, 2001

[10] Democracy, Leonard Cohen, 2011





Wednesday, October 24, 2018

LIVING IN THE NEW REALITY OF WAR: PART 1


                                                                                                                    



As I begin this, thousands of Hondurans, Guatemalans, El Salvadorians, Mexicans are continuing their long trek to the US. The public claim is flight from violence, unemployment, poverty. True as those reasons maybe it is highly unlikely this is a truly spontaneous event.  There is manipulation of these people in the shadows. This and other harsh realities call for deep and prayerful concern for the present situation and future of the human family.

I write the essay which follows, because of what is so widespread within the human family: anger, discrimination, individual-mob-state violence. Anxiety and despair dominate, and of all religions Christianity, more than any other, is under constant assault: in democratic countries by government and media, in others, persecution by blood. As I did the final edit, this has proven to be much, much longer than anticipated so is divided into sections. Also, though not my custom, while I research before writing, this time, given the urgency of the topic, I am including references to quotations and recommended book resources I have used as research.

More than anything else flowing, from this is: my urgent plea we reflect, ask the grace needed, so that in our suffering, no matter the cost, we become authentic witnesses to Christ and with Him become ever more compassionate. Should we fail to do so we shall all find ourselves overtaken by a global, human, catastrophe beyond imaging.

Mass illegal migration is the hundreds of thousands of people pouring into the countries of western Europe and North America. The established populations of these countries are understandably overwhelmed, and seeing the free housing, food, medical care offered these illegal newcomers, feel ever more the weight of their own strained resources to care for their families.

Left leaning politicians, intellectuals, tv pundits, - the elites - compound the stress by poorly articulated reasons why the newcomers should be so generously accommodated. At the same time these elites, who tend to be high income earners and thus virtually immune to the stresses on ordinary people, assert those who object to this lavishness to the illegals as hardhearted rightist populists, less then true citizens/Christians, translation: less human. This extreme rhetoric only adds to the mounting confusion, righteous fury, of ordinary people.

There are many causes of this global spread of anger, violence, anxiety, despair within the human family: ever higher taxes, yet infrastructures continue to crumble, affordable housing is lacking, gang violence is out of control, border security is virtually non-existent, add on the ever increasing cost of food, fuel, housing, medical care, schooling, the dearth of stable employment, the war against faith and family, by the elites and we see anger, frustration, despair weighing ever more heavily on ordinary citizens.

The tone deafness by mostly leftist elites is a major factor in the rise of so-called populism throughout the world.

If, as priests and bishops, we are to encourage people, in the midst of the extreme stress of life today, to live out the Gospel, in particular Christ’s call to active-compassionate-love, [cf. Mt. 25:31-46] then we need to live out this from the Second Vatican Council:  Led by the Spirit of the Lord, who anointed the Saviour and sent Him to evangelize the poor, priests, therefore, and also bishops, should avoid everything which in any way could turn the poor away. Before the other followers of Christ, let priests set aside every appearance of vanity in their possessions. Let them arrange their homes so that they might not appear unapproachable to anyone, lest anyone, even the most humble, fear to visit them. [1]

Within all the dissension in contemporary social and political life, there is one ray of hope: the rise of moderate populism [2] which engages people to bring back right order into the life of our countries.

Again it must be stated that it is the tone deafness of elites to the real concerns of real people about all that is happening in the world today which intensifies the anxiety and discouragement, the anger, so as a human family we no longer see, speak, hear, reflect, make choices based upon people, that is upon every human being, for we all are children of God, brothers and sisters, one family created in His image and likeness.

Increasingly our seeing, speaking, hearing has become a reflexive response that sets the mind, the emotions, on autopilot hence: all immigrants are potential terrorists or violent criminals, all politicians are only concerned about themselves, all elites utterly disdain the rest of us and seek to impose their agenda on us.

More important than any writing, my primary priestly mandate, a mandate also for every baptized person, is to pray for every human being on earth, irrespective of their race, religion, or no religion, social status, regardless be they friend or enemy. A mandate given by Jesus: You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for He makes His sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. [Mt.5:43-45]

As Our Lady tells us at Fatima, applicable still in our day: "I am the Lady of the Rosary, I have come to warn the faithful to amend their lives and ask for pardon for their sins. They must not offend Our Lord any more, for He is already too grievously offended by the sins of men. People must say the Rosary. Let them continue saying it every day. Fly from riches and luxury; love poverty and silence; have charity, even for bad people. "

All freedom comes from God, for He Himself breathes life into us and endows us with free will.

Exercise of freedom means mature, intelligent reflection upon the options, and a clear understanding of the consequences, and potentially unintended consequences, of the choices we make. This obligation of mature responsibility in the exercise of freedom is incumbent upon leaders in the realms of society, politics, religion, media, economics, the arts, medicine, science etc., as well.

We must believe, trust, live out the truth as Jesus tells us: “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” [Mt.5:13-16] It is the call to preach the Gospel with our lives without compromise.

Pierre Manet notes something applicable not just to the situation in France, but to all the situations around the world causing ordinary people to be so angry, frightened, despairing: The word that fits the new reality is war. A war against us has been declared and is happening. [3]

There is a well of anger people keep going to, drawing out buckets of hatred, frustration, discouragement and all the social divisions and chaos that flow therefrom. This is of immense danger, global war danger, for the entire human family.

As Jean Vanier expresses it: Among humankind, the family represents that basic social unit. However, everywhere we look, the basic place of belonging is breaking down……everywhere more and more people are frightened of commitment. And why is this happening? I believe it is because out Western societies have placed the power, rights, and needs of the individual above those of the group. [4]

Only a radical, rooted in Jesus Christ metanoia, that is conversion of our own hearts, as individuals, societies, religions, will open for us the door of hope, allowing us to see hope is not a thing desired, but a person encountered who, Himself, is our hope, because He alone is the way we seek, the truth we need, the love, the life we hunger for. Opening the door is not that difficult since we already know He is here: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with Me.” [Rev.3:20 & Lk. 24:13-35]



© 2018 Fr. Arthur Joseph

[1] cf. DECREE ON THE MINISTRY AND LIFE OF PRIESTS, Ch. 111, sec. 2, para 17

[2] cf. Stephan J. Harper: Right Here Right Now, Politics and Leadership In The Age of Disruption

[3] cf. Beyond Radical Secularism: p.33- Pierre Manet

[4] Becoming Human: p.50- Jean Vanier






Monday, September 24, 2018

EROSION OF THE PRINCIPLE: INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY


                                

These days the statement should be expanded to: proven in a court of law and not in mainline or social media, or screaming mobs in the streets, as we all witness the tsunami of accusations against public persons in media, business, religion, education, policing, the entertainment industry.

Innocent until proven guilty in a court of law is rooted in the Roman maxim: Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat (“the burden of proof is on the one who declares, not on one who denies”).

United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 11: Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.

Canadian Charter of Rights, 11[d]: (d) to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law in a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal. [In Canada this means the onus is on the Crown [prosecution in the US] to prove the case.]

What we are witnessing increasingly over the past several years, mostly when it comes to accusations of crimes of sexual or physical abuse of women and children, is conviction in the various forms of media, accusers NOT going first to the police for an investigation and laying of charges, but to the media of one sort or another, and triggering a mob-like reaction among the public, who assert absolute belief in the accuser’s version and proceed to destroy the reputation of the accused, without a shred or irrefutable proof that would stand scrutiny in a court of law being offered.

It seems to be becoming de rigour to convict and destroy by media.

This is not justice. This is unadulterated vengeance. Lives are destroyed.

Yes, some of the accused may be guilty.

Not all are.

In the use of traditional and social media by accusers, rather than going through the judicial process first, this enables other people with their own agendas to flip things and become a mob, using in their turn the same medias, going after the accuser.

In the end, because due process was not followed, the lives of both accused and accuser are left in shambles, no matter the eventual judicial outcome.

The justice system is thus seriously weakened, and the day will come when the tide will turn, and the ugliness of real victims not being believed will happen again because the ever fickle media, and the fickleness of people in general, will move onto some other cause.

This current climate of accusation and conviction by media is evil.

No Christian, unless abandoning the Gospel of Mercy and Truth, can be a participant in such egregious breech of the fundamental principle of presumption of innocence unless guilt is proven in a court of law.

© 2018 Fr. Arthur Joseph