Friday, July 21, 2017

CULTURE OF BLAMING AND DISPUTED QUESTIONS


                                          
PART 1



During the traditional singing of the national anthems of Canada and the United States at the opening of baseball’s All-Star game, while singing the Canadian anthem, the singer is heard to giggle slightly.

The Twittersphere went nuts with harshness about disrespect and some even suggesting banning anthems at games.

Really?

Who among us has not giggled nervously when under stress at the worst possible moment?

I’ll let well-funded sociology and psychology departments at universities figure when we became a culture of blaming and seemingly have forgone any capacity for compassionate understanding.

Since the so-called ‘Age of Enlightenment’ began in the 18th century, for all our progress in terms of free speech, democratic development, religious tolerance, etc., as a human community we have been on a trajectory to the proverbial ‘vanishing point’.

No wonder the other day a young adult said to me they have no hope and see nothing but the end of all things approaching at a frightening speed.

Bloody as they were, especially the French revolution in which hundreds of non-combatants were summarily executed, and the American revolution, which had its own various acts against so-called Loyalists, many of whom fled to Canada, nonetheless it did appear for a time that democratic forms of government would prevail. However, we must keep in mind that universal franchise of the vote did not happen for almost two centuries, during which time France went through a series of upheavals, including the Bonaparte era, the Americans had a civil war, those deep wounds not totally healed in either country.

Slavery and the so-called “Indian Wars’, actual wars against the Indigenous people by the American government, one post-confederation brief rebellion in Western Canada, another not yet healed wound, by the dawning of the 20th century primarily France, Canada, Great Britain and the USA were moving towards actual democratic systems and, though not until after WWI, supported by universal franchise.

However the profound bloodletting of two world wars, the Great Depression in between, has resulted in several paradoxes: international forms to govern world affairs, such as the UN, but it is largely ineffective because, and will remain so, five nations alone have veto power in the security council, the price for which is paid in blood by people subjected to genocide, such as in Rwanda; while Canada has very strict laws regarding boundaries for seats, known as ridings, in parliament, decided by independent commissions in each province based on population numbers after each decennial census, spending on elections is tightly controlled and financed in the main by tax payers, while individuals may contribute to a party or candidate, the amount is strictly limited: for example in the last federal election less than 2,000$, while corporations and trade unions are forbidden by law to contribute to parties or candidates.

I mention the above against the background of the, as yet, unfinished project of maturing democratic systems.

With extension of the vote first to non-landowning men, but well into the beginning of the 20th century before the franchise was granted to women, and even longer before women as government leaders or ministers became the norm, democracy began spreading across the globe, after WWII, until recently.

In our day once more the powerful and elites, of both the right and the left, an ever smaller, more powerful number of people, have seized control and push their own agenda.

No surprise then since after the US Supreme Court decision in ‘Citizens United’ money, not the voice, the votes, nor the concerns and needs of the common people, i.e. all the rest of us, has a wit to do with power, governance, elections, for when ballots are cast the outcome is virtually pre-determined because of the influence of hard, cold, cash.

On this point, I highly recommend Jane Mayer’s seminal work DARK MONEY.

Neither major party in the last US election listened to nor heard the people.

One man did, himself hardly the forgotten, common man, but shrewd enough to listen to and become the voice of ordinary Americans.

Brexit happened in Britain because of the same arrogant deafness and the country remains in a blaming lather with still nothing resolved.

France has deep divisions and anger, Canada likewise, while so-called, or formerly, democratic countries, Venezuela and Turkey being just two examples, have more and more oppressive regimes and a very angry and divided populace.

The Canadian Prime Minister, frequently an immature flip-flopper, prevents passage of a bill which would have protected police officers from being slaughtered by criminals granted bail because their violent past cannot be revealed at bail hearings, participates in the relentless blaming by Indigenous people of the rest of us for all their past trauma, some of it truly horrific and needing to be addressed, but the way his government handles things is beyond rational comprehension.

Things on most reserves are ‘third world’, but no one in his government seems willing to follow the money!

With millions upon millions poured annually into reserves over decades where has it gone? Not into adequate housing, for example and neither are governments willing to clean up the secretive way in which chiefs and councils, often with every one of the same family, are chosen.

The removal in the US of Confederate monuments, of objectionable building names or monuments in Canada because of what the colonial powers did is, frankly, revisionist history at its most grotesque and heals no one, reconciles no one.

Why?

Unless groups such as ‘Black lives matter’ or the Assembly of First Nations in Canada, and their counterparts around the world, are willing to look in the mirror, government placations are akin to the famous story of St. Augustine strolling along the shore trying to comprehend the mystery of the Trinity. Seeing a boy running between the sea and a hole dug in the sand with a shell in which he carried water, St. Augustine asked the boy what he was trying to do and the boy replied: “Put the ocean in the hole.” Augustine explained the impossibility of the task, to which the boy asserted: “I will put this ocean in this hole before you understand the mystery of the Trinity!”

Yes, black lives, but all lives, do matter, and yes injustice must be re-dressed, reconciliation worked towards, but with objective truth.

Yes, some police officers do kill minorities, but there are more, black on black murders per weekend in Chicago than police shootings, and yes Indigenous women and children should not be murdered, but excusing violence against them by their own, or ignoring it, because of past history, is disingenuous.

A prominent Indigenous recently stated how welcoming his people were when the British and French first came. Really? How traditionally Indigenous people have always been peaceful. Really?

So much for brushing out the wars between the tribes through millennia in North, Central, South America – much like the Jesuits did years ago at the shrine of the Canadian Martyrs, painting over beneath the clouds on which the martyrs stand, the depiction of their martyrdom.

Guess the Jesuits figure the martyrs were assumed into heaven!

A brother priest told me of his experience as parish priest of a large reserve when the feast of the martyrs was at hand and how nervous he was about preaching on the feast. So he went and asked one of the Elders what advice she had. The wise woman took his hand, looked him straight the eye and said: “Why worry, we did them a favour!”

Indeed.

This is truth speaking.

We know the molten core of the earth triggers earthquakes and volcanoes, neither of which we can accurately predict, both occurring with frequent destructiveness.

Both governments and elites of the left and the right, live on top of a seething, ever more hot and angry core of forgotten men and women.

Who knows when this core will erupt or what the consequences will be.

Erupt it will.

Blaming those who never had, nor have, any responsibility for the actions of previous generations, as terrible and destructive as those actions were, has become itself a form of discrimination and oppression and contributes more and more to angry resistance as minorities, finding every newer ways to blame and re-write history and making ever more extreme demands, trigger reactions which have both sides using ever more intemperate language.

This cycle will eventually stop reconciliation dead in its tracks.

We cannot rationally apply to previous eras of history, and human behaviour therein, our modern understanding of our common humanity, of intrinsic human dignity and rights.

That is a fool’s errand.

More and more it appears minorities’ understanding of reconciliation is: gimmee, gimmee, and there is no amount of money, no number of building name changes, nor monument destructions, which will ever satisfy.

Reconciliation must be mutual, or nothing is reconciled, nor will it ever be.

Reconciliation is impossible without mutual understanding, mutual forgiveness, mutual love.

Currently there is within societies, both national and international, such a dearth of understanding, forgiveness and love that the volcano of violent chaos is bubbling ever closer to the surface and the whole human family is at risk.

Thus, the first disputed question is: Are we willing to embrace objective truth and move away from blaming so that both just re-dress of wrongs and reconciliation can become forward moving within the context of authentic government of, by and for the people? Are we willing to become a people of attentive listening, reconciliation without vitriolic blaming, using instead love’s maturity?

Or is the chasm between the blamers and the blamed, the blamed who did NOT enact the evils of the past, so immense that for all the shouting back and forth no sound can carry that far and so each side becomes ever more distanced from and incomprehensible to the other?

We need to dispassionately, compassionately, find a way to bridge the chasm, find a meeting place, see each other as one like myself and begin to love one another.

Little time remains before the volcano erupts and the whole earth becomes a new Pompeii.












Monday, June 05, 2017

new blog added

https://hopeforpriests.blogspot.ca/2017/06/a-chronos-zig-and-kairos-zag.html


Thursday, March 16, 2017

THE UNEXPECTED JOURNEY


                                               

Yesterday, during the prayers for the dead, a section of each Holy Mass before the Our Father, a beloved-priest monk, deceased some years ago, a dear friend, retreat-master and someone with whom I often exchanged letters filled with spiritual richness – from him I stress – came powerfully anew to my heart and I reflected with come confidence that he is face to face with the Beloved of his life.

After Mass, however I realized I am now deep into, perhaps further along than I suspect, an unexpected journey.

About to face, sometime in the future, as yet totally unknown to me, of not just the journey’s end, but the final stage of a battle I have been engaged in for over seventy years!

In many ways the entire journey through life, what is actually a pilgrimage to the Absolute, is, if not purely an unexpected journey, certainly a journey filled with, sometime fraught with, the unexpected.

From the moment in chronological time the Holy Trinity breathes life into us, with the cooperative love of a man and a woman, who co-create new life with the Trinity, we have begun the journey.

The first door we pass through, the first complete stage of the journey is through the door from within our mother’s heart and womb out into the birth-reality from the, as it were, enclosed universe within her, into the ever-expanding universe from life at home, to life away from home, on a planet itself but one place within an even greater universe.

Change, movement, experience, growth, aging, joys, tears, success, failure, love, love lost, hopefully found again, the ebb and flow of friendships and perhaps encounters with enemies – yes the journey is one of constant discovery, of learning, of choosing.

For we human beings created in the image and likeness of God with the immortal soul breathed into us, our body, with its senses, mind, will, imagination, emotions, is not the sum of being:  being is who we are, mindful the soul gives form to the body and the body itself is a temporary abode.

We are in a sense nomads on the journey carrying the ‘tent’ of our bodies wherever we go.

For us then death is but the final and greatest doorway which when passed through allows us to step into the reality of true being, into an immensity greater than the entire created universe, a place of no more tears, neediness, nor lack of love and beauty because it is our true home, which is the place of everlasting communion of love with the Holy Trinity: the real purpose of our being.

That said these more than seventy years death and I have been in a battle wherein mostly I have used my wits and energies, and since ordained, my priestly power to frustrate death at every turn.

I realize now that death at some point, I know not when exactly, will turn and no longer flee from me the pursuer but will come towards me and this time – though I admit as yet I lack enough faith and trust to do so – I will stop, stand, wait and, if granted the grace of absolute faith and trust, surrender to death’s embrace, confident the embrace is not my being overcome or destroyed, rather death’s embrace is actually the door being flung open!

Two passages come to mind at this juncture. The first from the Holy Gospel:

Then Jesus told His disciples, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? [cf. Mt.16:24-26]

And from St. Paul:

Bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God. He saved us and called us to a holy life, not according to our works but according to his own design and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus before time began, but now made manifest through the appearance of our Saviour Christ Jesus, who destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. [2 Tim. 1:8-10]

There sure are lots of ‘heroic’ ways to deny ourselves and some are called to do so, such as those who voluntarily give up all the security of marriage, family etc., to embrace the monastic, religious, priestly life.

However, I would argue the true heroic way is to embrace what Jesus is asking by being faithful to the duty of the moment, as moms do when their baby needs to be fed at two in the morning, as dad’s do when going to work each day, what they both do at day’s end by giving the children all the attention they need during supper and bedtime rituals. THAT is self-denial in spades!

Self-gift to other, in marriage, parenthood, priesthood, in military service, policing, teaching, shelf-stocking in a grocery store, etc., etc. – the fullness of what Christ asks is not to be found in any particular vocation or profession, rather it is within our vocation/profession living out the simple principle: God first, the other second and I am third.

This is also how we live out what St. Paul is asking through the strength we get from God: when it seems we are just way too fried to carry on, way too ‘giving’ empty to spare another drop, we can draw upon the strength of the very grace Jesus asked for in the Garden: “Not my will but Yours be done”, the grace of strength is the very grace we ask in the Our Father: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Again, it has taken more than seventy years of the unexpected journey for me to barely begin to embrace the above, much less live it out!

Death, in my experience through most of my life, is a sneak, a thief, arbitrary, sometimes cruel, occasionally as unexpectedly quick with the speed of a striking snake, at other times lingers for no apparent reason, and throughout human history is often in league with pandemics, warmongers and terrorists and not infrequently a co-conspirator with people who hate.

That said my first experience of this sneakiness of death was when I was a small child just after the war, during family supper when suddenly my Grandmother moaned, clutched her chest and fell to the floor.

She was dead.

In those days, deceased family were waked in the home and so within hours there she was in the open casket, cold, stiff to the touch and my battle with death had begun – death the sneak, death the quick, death the thief.

Within seemingly quick succession over the next couple of years my Great Uncle, who in many respects was dead in body and spirit from his First World War wounds, was gone, quickly at the end, and then my Grandfather, with him death lingered cruelly and his death filled me with both anger and a grief, I admit, which sometimes these sixty plus years later still pains.

First in the newspapers, then in magazines, and books, in the years immediately after the Second World War, pictures of the concentration camps, and the victims of death’s abode piled like tossed debris, as well as pictures of emaciated survivors, men, women, children, were rather common both because of the Nuremburg trials, and because everyone was trying to do the impossible: understand how this could have happened.

I remember my first perusal of a book about the camps, likely I was by then five or six and already possessed with a mind of keen observation, analysis and memory. I asked the Aunt whose home I was visiting: why the people were naked, that it was wrong for people to have their picture taken when they had no clothes on.

She gently re-opened the book which I had slammed shut in disgust and explained things to me.

This did two things within me: made me from then on fiercely opposed to war, discrimination, hatred and made me see death even more as the enemy.

Some years later death as the cruel co-conspirator with disease was brought home to me and seared me deeply emotionally during the polio epidemic.

Many children, including classmates, died, and an awful lot of those afflicted ended up in what were called iron lungs.

I remember when we were given the polio vaccine after the epidemic sensing this battle death had now lost!

When I was sixteen the seductive sneakiness of death tried to overpower me.

I was working, having left home two years before, high in the rafters of a barn replacing the rotted boards of a catwalk and could look down from my perch, through the immense and empty hayloft, it was the beginning of summer and the cattle were on pasture, down all the way to the cement floor and this idea took hold, telling me how easy it would be just to let myself fall and then all the adolescent angst, the pain, the confusion, the disenchantment with life would be over.

At the time, when eventually I completed the job and got down to the barn floor the normal way, by the ladders, I had no idea why I did not let myself fall, did not surrender to death.

Today I know it was grace.

Not a grace I was consciously aware of or said a clear yes to at the time, but a grace nonetheless.

The grace of the power of the constitutive passion to live placed in all of us at our creation.

In life each moment of each day is preparation for life forever with Him, if in each moment, no matter the particular pain or darkness, we choose life!

As we know the repercussions of WWII rippled throughout the remainder of the 20th century with a seemingly endless series of civil wars and revolutions from China to Iran, extending even into the 21st century, as well what became known as proxy wars extended from Korea to  Vietnam to Afghanistan; civil rights movements and other struggles, sometimes indirectly, sometimes deliberately, increased assassinations of political and civil rights leaders, opponents of oppressive regimes; plagues from AIDS to Zika unfolded along with terrorism from the Red Brigades to Al Qaeda to ISIS, while even today famine is death’s chariot to move among whole nations.

Within such chaos comes another type of death: that of rational morality, common sense and social cohesion unravels.

There are today, since the end of the 20th century fewer democratic governments around the world, a growing gap between rich and poor, an angry clamoring for ‘rights’, without an equal voice for personal responsibility, and finally people who actually believe and practice, for example their Catholic faith, are becoming a remnant, while others gather on the edges as either extreme fundamentalists or as cafeteria Catholics.

In religions without a solid base of central wisdom and guidance, such as Catholics have in the person of the Pope, extremists misuse sacred texts to justify their death-dealing angry illusions.

Our greatest concern should not be the debated impact on climate by human activity, rather it should be the persistent de-humanizing of the human family, a far greater and more immediate unfolding of death with the spread of abortion, euthanasia, the dismantling of the family as a sacred relationship between a man and woman and the children issued from their love.

I will admit I went through a period overly influenced by the above matters and did not lose but decidedly rejected and walked away from Catholic faith and praxis.

It was in the midst of those dark years, before my conversion  of return to Catholic faith and practice, that death showed me its cruelty and claim to power in the work I was doing, always I might add on the graveyard shift.

No irony there!

One night the homicide detectives asked everyone on that shift to find time to go to the morgue and see if we could recognize, as a person with a name, a body dragged out of the river.

Since my own duty required me, while on patrol, to answer calls across the whole city it was not until two in the morning that I had time to respond.

There in the morgue was the body of a young man, perhaps in his mid-twenties, who had been severely tortured before being executed.

I stood there, not able to make an identification, but lingering, wondering if a mother or father, a wife or children, a lover or friend was wondering where he was, what had happened to him?

It seemed to me, as anger welled within me about the way humans cooperate with death in the brutal way this man’s life had been taken, that maybe death was too powerful, maybe I should stop trying to beat death.

Then, inside of my mind or heart or…….somehow I heard yet not hearing as in when someone else is speaking, but heard in a depth of my being I’d been ignoring for decades: “You will remember him in your first Mass and pray for his soul and he will be granted peace.”

Terrified, I fled the morgue.

Fifteen years later during my ordination Mass I remembered him, prayed for him, and continue do so each anniversary of my ordination for more than thirty years already.

During my years serving as a parish priest, as is true for all priests, death and I met often: in hospitals, nursing homes, prisons, family homes, at scenes of highway accidents.

The prescribed prayers of the Church within the Sacrament of the Sick administered to the dying make it clear death’s victory is illusory for Christ is greater, the same within the prayers for the deceased during the wake and funeral Mass where the emphasis is that life has not ended but changed, changed because Christ IS risen!

While intellectually I believed all the truth Jesus and the Church teach about the resurrection of the body and life forever in communion of love with the Most Holy Trinity, deep within my being there remained doubt.

Until one year when I was on sabbatical I was able to participate in a Byzantine liturgy commemorating the burial of Christ.

 
Known in Greek as the Epitaphios this, and similar, cloth icons are very sacred and used throughout the extended Vespers of Good Friday.

At the end of Vespers, as I experienced it almost twenty years ago, four acolytes held the icon high enough that, led by the bishop and priests, followed by the congregation, we processed under it, having to bend low, as if to enter the tomb in which Christ was buried.

But unlike the enclosed tomb, we came out on the other side!

My entire being experienced, finally without doubt or hesitation, the truth of entering death with, in, through Christ as the unexpected final steps of the journey.

"Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" [1 Cor. 5:55]

In the late 90’s Jean Vanier gave the lectures in the CBC Massey Lectures Series, which talks were eventually published in a book called BECOMING HUMAN: “We human beings are all fundamentally the same. We all belong to a common, broken humanity. We all have wounded, vulnerable hearts. Each one of us needs to feel appreciated and understood; we all need help.”

That word from Jean Vanier serves me as a reminder this unexpected journey will someday be not the symbolic bending, entering, emerging from a liturgical gesture of death, burial, resurrection, but the actual entering and emerging.

Therefore I, and all the elderly, must embrace a humble willingness to risk others, the younger, stronger in particular, seeing our brokenness, woundedness, vulnerability, neediness and reach out for any help needed.

It also means, in union with the often rejected and lonely Christ, peacefully accepting the response to our need may not be instantaneous.

If we love those we need, then we will trust their love in return and be patient.

Jesus tells us: Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come…….So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. [cf. Mt.24:42&44]

However, there is no need to fear the last footsteps of the journey for Jesus promises us: Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.’ Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. [cf.Jn.14-16]

At journey’s end, in the most unexpected moment, we will not be alone, He will be with us.











 



                                               

Monday, February 20, 2017

NOT MY PRESIDENT!


                                                           

In my plus seventy years of life I have lived under 7 Popes, 2 Monarchs, 11 Governor Generals, 14 Prime Ministers and during the same period the United States has had 14 Presidents.

Except for the Popes, the Monarchs, the Governor Generals, [the Popes we believe and trust are chosen by the Holy Spirit, the Monarchs are hereditary, the Governor Generals appointees of the reigning monarch, and like the monarch herself forbidden constitutionally to meddle in politics or be partisan], Prime Ministers and Presidents are creatures of the people.

In other words, democratically elected, of differing political persuasions and thus vulnerable in a radically different way to public opinion than those others mentioned such as popes.

When it comes to Prime Ministers of Canada I am batting 50/50 so half the time my choice has been elected and mostly I have been pleased by how they have governed the country. With the ones, I did not vote for, including the current office holder, I have been/am, decidedly disappointed.

However, it has never occurred to me to go around and declare that the duly elected prime minister is not mine, nor have I ever experienced tens of thousands of Canadians, from the very night of the election and continuing virtually unabated post-election, filling the streets and declaring: NOT MY PRIME MINISTER!

Feelings can/do run deep in this country when it comes to political parties, of which we have usually at least four in parliament, but there is also a deep sense that, if you will, ‘this too shall pass’, because there is always another election.

What I, and people around the world, are observing happening in the United States is not only dangerous for the future of the republic but allows authoritarian regimes around the world, and worse terror groups, to point to the chaos and argue it reveals a fundamental weakness in democratic countries, namely that when push comes to shove the people who see themselves as on the losing side neither respect the results nor the new head of government, actually in the USA, the new head of state since both aspects are in the one presidential office.

The Second Vatican Council in its document on the Church In The Modern World stresses the need for community, participation in same, and the development of what is commonly called politics noting that the political community exists for the common good, stressing then that the resulting state/government which results itself must be directed towards the common good and that we as citizens must obey – so long as the government does not abuse its authority. [cf. op. cit. para 74]

The latter of course – abuse of authority – unless as blatant as happens in non-democratic societies – can be very subjective, hence the importance of transparency in government and of a free press and the absolute protection of freedom of speech.

Pope Francis stressed in his speech to congress during his visit to the United States that everyone in every country has a mission which is both personal and social and stressed that “A political society endures when it seeks, as a vocation, to satisfy common needs by stimulating the growth of all is members, especially those in situations of greater vulnerability or risk. Legislative activity is always based on care for the people.” [Sep.24.15]

In many countries citizens and even legislative assemblies ever since the recent American election have been extremely vocal in their attitude towards the current President – leaving one to wonder how those people and governments would feel if Americans were trashing their head of state or government?

Human history is a long and not yet completed journey from the autocracy of tribal leaders, to kings, until finally, starting with the Magna Carter, little by little the difficult, and at times very bloody, process of representative government began to take root and still we have not achieved its full, and necessary, potential.

Unless we learn anew some basic principles of democracy and communal living we will regress, perhaps so far back truly democratic societies will if not disappear, certainly be in extreme peril.

I will note the first principle last.

The second principle is to honour the fact everyone else has the same right to choose for whom they vote, for which party, as I do and the Golden Rule applies here. IF there are legitimate, objective concerns post an election about the way the elected are leading the country or legislating then the right to protest, sacrosanct as it is, MUST be exercised with peaceful respect and avoiding words and actions which divide rather than unite.

The third principle is to temper extremism when it comes to freedom of speech. When, be they university students or members of a political action group, make it impossible by shouting or rioting for someone or some group to speak because their ideology is objected too then those shutting down that speech are, frankly, liars when they assert belief in free speech – in truth what they mean is ‘my speech’ alone is allowed.

Such antics increase the angry division-wounds in democratic societies and if the current trend continues we will be walking ever closer to increased totalitarianism, perhaps not immediately, but inevitably, of government or certain segments of the population who are no different than those historical groups of the past who marauded by night wearing white sheets.

Here, most critically the American media, also that of other countries, not to mention the so-called social media, which as a blogger I am a tiny part of – all who use modern forms of communication need to temper adjectives and rash ad hominem statements.

Classic media – newspapers, radio, television – seem to spend less time reporting factual events and more time rounding up panels of so-called experts to blather on about the foibles and outrages of the current President, thereby exacerbating the ever deepening, and dangerous, divisions within the society which has not yet truly healed from their civil war of more than a century ago.

Those of us who use social media likewise have a common-good responsibility to fact check what we write and to assure while exercising the free speech right of dissent to do so in language that is tempered by charity.

Now the first principle: Then Jesus said to them, "Give back to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's." [Mk. 12: 17]

Be subject to every human institution for the Lord’s sake, whether it be to the king as supreme or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the approval of those who do good. For it is the will of God that by doing good you may silence the ignorance of foolish people. Be free, yet without using freedom as a pretext for evil, but as slaves of God. Give honour to all, love the community, fear God, honor the king. [1Pt.2:13-17]

Let every person be subordinate to the higher authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been established by God. Therefore, whoever resists authority opposes what God has appointed, and those who oppose it will bring judgment upon themselves. [Rm. 13:1,2]








Saturday, February 04, 2017

HATE MUCH?


                                                                  

Several years ago news came out about the discovery of human remains at the bottom of a deep rock shaft in Spain.

Some thirty skeletons were found, with clear indications of murder.

The remains have been dated as being some 400,000 years old.

In his book, HOMO DEUS, Yuval Hararai notes that: “From the Stone Age to the age of steam, and from the Arctic to the Sahara, every person on earth knew that at any moment their neighbours might invade their territory, defeat their army, slaughter their people and occupy their land.”

Perhaps those thirty human beings, whose remains were found in Spain, died in such an invasive battle, or perhaps they simply belonged to the wrong tribe or clan or worshipped some deity not accepted by their killers.

While certainly in the 20th century we experienced wars on a massive scale, of the type Hararai speaks of, within those wars the greatest acts of hatred-murder were committed by the Nazis in the death camps, and only since the Second World War have we discovered irrefutable evidence of other mass murders such as throughout the gulag and even more recently have we been confronted with 9/11 and every terrorist act since then.

Bl. John Henry Cardinal Newman once noted that: “Prejudice, after all, is superior to facts, and lives in a world of its own.”

In the 4th chapter of Genesis, the story of Cain and Abel, we are confronted with the first recorded instances of self-pity, jealously, rage, fratricide, murder in Sacred Scripture.

Since God alone sees the truth within every human heart, thus the Sacred text points clearly to Cain’s heart being deeply infected with self-centered-self-pity, jealous rejection of his brother Abel.

Thus within Cain an infection spreads from the heart to the mind to angry, hate-filled murder.

Cain’s sarcastic lie, when challenged by God after the murder, about having no idea where his brother is and rejecting his responsibility as the elder brother to lovingly, protectively care for his sibling, is summarily dealt with by God who informs Can that Abel’s blood cries out from the very earth.

“This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister. For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous.” [1Jn.3:10-12]

Recent elections, notably in the United States, but elsewhere in the world, have been marked by profound anger, divisions, violent protests and we are witnessing around the world, in democratic countries in particular, increased anger and extremism and acts of hatred against those deemed for a plethora of reasons to be, if not outright enemies, at least a threat because their economic status, colour, political position, gender, sexual orientation, religion are rejected because they are not ‘ours’!

Hate is the most insidious of diseases of the heart and like all fatal infections has two definitive aspects: 1] ultimately it kills the host and 2] is in a sense an air-borne disease spread by word of mouth.

ISIS is nothing less than an epidemic of hate, but alt-right and alt-leftist Christians, Jews, peoples of any religion, likewise are spreaders of this same pandemic which is sickening the whole human family, weakening democracies, and may well lead to a third, and given modern weapons of mass destruction, unwinnable world war, except perhaps by the very machines, nuclear, chemical and biological weapons which will destroy us.

Words have intrinsic and extrinsic power.

Genesis repeats throughout each stage of creation, including the creation of the human person: “God said....”.

Each spoken ‘word’ results in the ‘and there was’.

 The Holy Gospel, according to St. John, reminds us that in the very beginning was ‘the Word’.

The interior dialogue which stirs darkness in the human heart itself reveals the power of words.

Eventually the words spoken interiorly, churning within the ever-destructive poison of prejudice, rejection, hatred, become the emotions of anger, even murderous rage.

It matters not a whit to the innocent victims of the murderous hate to which extremist group, or the lone-wolf, hate-filled murder[s] belongs: for they are dead, just like those found in that pit in Spain or in the mountainous debris of 9/11.

However, it does matter much to those who survive a hate-filled attack, such as occurs all too frequently, sometimes by Islamic extremists, such as in Europe, or by rightist/leftist extremists such as occurred in the lone-wolf terrorist attack in Quebec City where Muslim men at prayer were murdered and wounded.

The interior dialogue of people who hate begins with words of self-hatred, self-rejection.

Sometimes this so poisons the heart that the person takes their own life, for the poison has so permeated their minds, souls, they can no longer stand the darkness and pain.

Other times the impact of the interior poisoning morphs into an extended dialogue of blaming, such as Can did of Abel, and the process begins of refusing to see other as one like myself, a human being, and constructing a list of reasons as to why they cannot possibly be one like myself, an acting person, and therefore must be a thing, an object.

Like the boiling cauldron of Shakespeare’s witches anger heats to the point of hate-filled rage and we have a 9/11, a Charlie-Hebdo, a Quebec City massacre.

Words have power.

Words are active, never passive.

Words can shred another’s dignity, hurt and shame them, reject them.

More powerful are words which affirm, welcome, accept, love, forgive, reveal mercy and compassion.

There was a story repeated often years ago after a pastoral visit by St. John Paul II to a country suffering under a military dictatorship which, admittedly I have not been able to verify, yet is, true or not, illustrative: The Pope was celebrating Holy Mass before tens of thousands of people in a stadium when into the crowd came soldiers, agents of the dictatorship, who began assaulting people and panic started.

The Holy Father stopped the Mass and repeated over and over in an ever-firmer voice: “Love is stronger! Love is stronger!”, until the bishops and priests, then the assembled choir joined him in repeating “Love is stronger!” Little by little those powerful three words moved through the crowd until it was the spoken word of everyone and the soldiers slinked away.

In Auschwitz in 1941 the Nazis choose a group of men for execution by starvation when one of the men, rather young, pleaded for his life for he was a husband and father. Before the Nazis could react, a priest stepped forward and offered himself, his life, in exchange.

Miraculously his offer was accepted.

That priest is known throughout the world as St. Maxmilian Kolbe and the young man did survive that day and the longs days after until he was among the liberated survivors.

Love IS stronger.

Each of us can, must, choose which words we speak to ourselves, and if we find we are speaking dark and hurtful words to ourselves then before the infection becomes fatal we must use our words with someone we trust – spouse, friend, priest, doctor – who can help us change the interior dialogue.

Each of us can, must, choose which words we speak to others, starting with those closest to us and extending outward to our neighbours and to strangers. If an understandable thing such as shyness makes it difficult for us to speak with strangers we can always use the non-verbal words of our eyes, so powerfully expressive and our smiles. Smiles, though in a sense wordless, nonetheless speak volumes of recognition that the one passing by upon whom I smile is a person like myself.

Constitutive of our humanity is the reality we are endowed with emotions/passions, which in and of themselves are neutral.

It is the choice we make in response to their movement within us which differentiates between a choice for good or evil, virtue or vice.

Thus, an act of terrorism may well trigger intense emotions of anger, rejection towards the person[s] who commit the act.

If we allow those emotions to remain unchecked we may well become a hater of not only the terrorist but holus-bolus of the very group, culture, religion they belong to.

That is to choose evil, indeed to become a type of emotional terrorist ourselves.

If we choose not to allow the emotion to master us, but embracing the pain and sorrow over lives lost, persons wounded, communities in upheaval, and choose to embrace, to live out the teachings of Christ then we are acting virtuously, righteously.

We all know some, like ISIS, but also Christian and Jewish extremists, seek to justify their hatred and violence by appealing to their interpretation of sacred texts.

This is obscene, disingenuous, insults God, and indeed rather than receive some illusory blessing here or in the hereafter, when such murderous-haters do appear before the awesome judgement seat of God, as He asked of Cain, so shall be asked of them: “Where is your brother?”

While it should be equally self-evident for adherents of all religions, it is constitutive of Christianity, that we the baptized are not simply expected, but commanded by God, in the words of the Incarnate Word of God, Jesus Christ, to love and not to hate.

 “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.” [Mt.5:22] “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” [5:44-45]
















Wednesday, November 02, 2016

THE AMERICAN ELECTION: AN EXERCISE IN SELF-MUTILATION


                          

A couple of months ago, during what seems an exhausting, stressful, never ending American election cycle, friends from the USA wrote begging prayer for their deeply troubled, self-mutilating country.

Ever since then this essay has been on and within my heart but every idea I came up with was rejected as being either finger wagging, vitriolic, smug, partisan – even though as a Canadian, obviously, I am not among the American electorate – or, I confess, pietistic.

Then unexpectedly yesterday clarity because not only the Gospel was the Beatitudes but I encountered someone who embodies the fundamental weakness both within left leaning and right leaning political parties/governments in modern democracies and why democratic governments, having caved and continuing to cave into the entitlement mindset, which poisons everyone and everything it touches, is devouring democracy as fiercely as terminal cancer devours human beings.

I had just left the light filled, warm, joyful rectory of a brother priest where we had enjoyed cake and coffee to celebrate the parish secretary’s birthday.

Stepping out into the cold wind and heavy wet snow, I walked the couple of blocks to the bus stop, noticing as I approached a middle-aged woman, not dressed for the weather, sitting in a wheel chair.

She motioned to me to come closer begging for money and a smoke as “It is my birthday.”

Taking care of the material request was simple but I could tell by her eyes what she truly hungered for, and so wished her a Happy Birthday and gave her a blessing.

Suddenly she was beaming and radiated with her smile gratitude she had been spoken with, seen as a real person.

That illuminated my heart about why I see the United States in this election cycle as self-mutilating, why I am profoundly concerned this will not end on November the 8th and why I am equally concerned modern democracies are eroding from within, irrespective if the governing party be from the left or the right, and see increasing and extremely dangerous anger and ballot box – for now – rebelliousness among the populations.

The clear majority of modern democracies trace their history back to a time when the world was divided between Christendom and that part of the human family where the Gospel had yet to penetrate.

Since WWII there has been, and continues to be, a determined rejection of and assault upon all things Christian, in Europe and North America as a matter of government policy, aided and abetted by media in all its forms and the so-called intelligentsia.

Those elites have become tone deaf to the Vox Populi because such elites are incapable of authentic recognition that every human being is one like myself.

Granted, what follows right here is an over simplification, but stresses the point:  for the rightist people are incapable of……..[put your own word here if you are a rightist]…………..for the leftist people don’t know that this…………..[again if a leftist insert your own label]…is best for them.

Democracy is only authentic and effective if it is centrist, via media, the middle way which, for example, neither imposes a religion NOR deliberately attacks religious belief and expression.

It is only in the mature centre, where can be a found a balance between the Gospel of Life and the exercise of authentic freedom of choice in all matters of faith and morals [this presumes a maturity that accepts responsibility for the consequences of choosing] that the clear voice of the people, as individual persons and the communal Vox Populi can be heard and what is being said discerned and responded to.

The current election cycle in the USA, with each contender for president seemingly inexhaustible in their capacity for other bashing and lying, has a cacophony of angry voices, megaphoned by profit driven and agenda driven media on both sides, creating an atmosphere scarily reminiscent of the lead up to the original American Civil War.

The woman, minus warm clothing, sitting in her wheelchair on a cold and wet snowy afternoon of her birthday, simply wanted to be heard, seen, recognized as a human being.

When governments, politicians, indeed any of us, fail to see other as one like myself, fail to respond to the basic need to be recognized as, and spoken with, listened to, as a person worthy of love, dignity, irrespective of race, religion, status, political leaning, then the heart of such of our brothers and sisters is wounded ever more severely by such rejection and our failure to see them, hear them, deepens the wound.

Increasingly so wounded some retreat into despair, depression, addictions, while others become extremists of all sorts.

Beneath the veneer of a democratic election, and dangerously so, within the American population is an ever-increasing segment of the population alienated to a dangerously explosive juncture, not least because both political parties have chosen as candidate someone clearly unable to stop by our sister in her wheel chair and see her, hear her, speak to her love’s code word: Happy Birthday!



  




Friday, July 08, 2016

HIS BLOOD, THEIR BLOOD, OUR BLOOD


                                            

Until sunlight hits raindrops at the right angle the drops are translucent. A simple fact.

Once sunlight hits them at the right angle we marvel at the beauty of rainbows.

Another simple fact.

Why then do seemingly so many human beings fail to embrace the simple fact pigmentation is ONLY skin deep?

Within the external covering is the same red blood and the simple fact is that within the depth of our humanity each and every one of us IS the same colour.

Racism is a choice to be ensnared in prejudice, hatred, willful blindness as refusal to see other as one like myself.

No one can claim to be a true Christian or Jew or Muslim, for example, if our hearts are cesspools of hate towards another human being, for to hate my brother or sister is to choose to hate God Himself who sent His only begotten Son as one like us to shed His Blood for us, to redeem us, commanding us to love one another as He loves us.

The Dallas snipers, the Orlando terrorist, the 9/11 terrorists, the Ottawa shooter/terrorist, those around the world such as ISIS and Boko Haram, are willfully blind haters.

 When they appear before the awesome judgment seat of God He will hear the voice of their brothers’ blood crying out from the earth. [cf. Gn. 4: 10,11]

The blood of every human being whether murdered by abortion, by gun, by bomb, one on one or in the darkness of concentration camps is the blood of God become man, Jesus Christ: is the blood of each one of us.

Soaking the earth over the millennia with the blood of our brothers and sisters we human beings would go insane from the unremitting screaming of the oceans of blood which have, which do, saturate the earth and unless a greater soaking had/does occur, only the crying of their blood would/will be heard by our heavenly Father.

We would be forever imprisoned in our sin, forever without hope and this earthly existence would be cruel, pointless, devoid of hope, remaining forever unredeemed.

“As I passed by I saw you in your blood. So I said to you, ‘Let there be life out of your blood…’” [Ez. 16:6]

Who passed by?

The same who said/says: “…..make haste, come down, for today I must stay at your house.” [Lk. 19:5] and “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come into him and dine with him and he with Me.” [Rv. 3:20] and “This is My Blood of the new covenant which is shed for many” [Mk. 14:24] and it is said of Him: “And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became as great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” [Lk. 22:44] and “….one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear and immediately blood and water came out.” [Jn. 19:34]

It is Jesus who passing by sees us writhing in our blood, up in the tree of our own pride, fears, sins, who knocks constantly at the door of our being that we might allow Him to enter and cleanse our hearts of all hatred and violence, who offers His own life-giving Blood to us in the Holy eucharist that mingled with our own His Blood might dominate our beings that we would love one another as He loves us from whom the earnestness and intensity of His agonizing prayer for us causes His blood to fall to the ground, also falling from His pierced side.

His Blood seeps into the earth and mutes the cries of all the blood shed since Cain until the end of time from a cry for justice into His cry for mercy from the Father upon us, for forgiveness and the chance in each of our lives, in our communal life on this earth in each moment in Him to begin again.

His Blood cries hope, mercy, redemption.

St. John XXII in an Apostolic Letter from 1960 on devotion to, and confidence in, the Most Precious Blood of Jesus reminds us that: “Unlimited is the effectiveness of the God-Man’s Blood – just as unlimited as the love that impelled Him to pour it out for us….”

Hatred breeds violence, the violent hatefully shed blood.

Love engenders understanding, compassion, clear eyes which, like raindrops kissed by the sun see the beauty of diversity knowing the essence of each raindrop is the same one to another.

IF we allow the light of Christ, Christ Himself who shed His Blood for us, to illuminate our souls, hearts, conscience, thoughts, then we shall see each other as He and the Father sees us and we shall love one another.

From the litany of the Most Precious Blood of Jesus:

Blood of Christ poured out on the Cross….price of our salvation….stream of mercy…victor over demons…help of those in peril…relief of the burdened…solace in sorrow….consolation of the dying….peace and tenderness of hearts….SAVE US!